PG&E to file for bankruptcy amid $30B in fire-related liabilities, thousands of destroyed homes

Company has been lobbying to pass on costs of damages to residents

PG&E's incoming CEO John Simon and a Paradise, California home burned in the Camp Fire (Credit: iStock)
PG&E's incoming CEO John Simon and a Paradise, California home burned in the Camp Fire (Credit: iStock)

PG&E Corp. said it is preparing to file for bankruptcy in the next two weeks, as it faces potential liabilities of up to $30 billion related to a string of wildfires over the last few years.

On Sunday, CEO Geisha Williams stepped down as CEO of the company, which wholly owns the Pacific Gas and Electric utilities company. General Counsel John Simon will act as CEO until a replacement can be found, according to Bloomberg.

In lawsuits, survivors have blamed PG&E for igniting some of the deadly wildfires that have scorched California in recent years, including the Camp Fire in November that killed 86 people and destroyed 21,000 homes across six counties in Northern California.

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State Attorney General Xavier Becerra also has the company in his sights. He promised in December to charge PG&E if an investigation revealed that “reckless” behavior contributed to the Camp Fire.

Around two-thirds of the company’s market value has been wiped out since the company said following the fire that there were equipment failures near its origin point.

PG&E said it “does not expect” bankruptcy to impact service to customers, or pay and benefits to employees. The company has spent millions of dollars lobbying the state to let it pass on the cost of damages to its customers. The utility has $1.5 billion in cash and equivalents on hand, according to Bloomberg, far less than its potential liabilities.

A group of more than 170 residents have also filed suit against Southern California Edison, claiming the utility company was partially responsible for causing the Woolsey Fire, which destroyed more than 1,600 structures in L.A. and Ventura counties in November. [Bloomberg] — Dennis Lynch