Wildfire fallout: Thousands of property owners may miss chance for PG&E compensation

A looming deadline— as part of PG&E’s bankruptcy filing — is putting pressure on victims to file property claims

Oct.October 07, 2019 12:00 PM
PG&E CEO William Johnson and a Camp Fire victim looking over his destroyed home (credit: U.S. Air Force)
PG&E CEO William Johnson and a Camp Fire victim looking over his destroyed home (credit: U.S. Air Force)

Tens of thousands of California property owners may miss a deadline to seek compensation for wildfire-related damage from troubled utilities provider PG&E.

More than 70,000 have yet to file any claim for compensation from PG&E as part of the utiltiy’s bankruptcy case, according to the New York Times. At least 31,500 people have filed claims, which are due Oct. 21.

The reasons for the lapse vary: some homeowners and other victims are struggling or unable to prove the value of their losses, others don’t want to take compensation from people who they think need it more, according to the report.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January as it faced $30 billion in liabilities for a string of fires. Those included last November’s Camp Fire, which killed 86 people and destroyed 21,000 homes in counties in Northern California.

Attorney Mike Danko, who represents 4,000 victims of fires dating back to 2015, said that PG&E made its deadline short so the company “[ends] up with a smaller number,” of claims, according to the report. Another attorney representing victims may request to push the deadline back.

The utility has been battling a group of bondholders over its path out of bankruptcy. That group has significant backing among victims, but its proposed bankruptcy plan would hurt shareholders.

PG&E agreed over the summer to pay at least $1 billion to cities, counties, and other parties for damages related to wildfires it has caused over the last several years. That did not include any claims made by victims. [NYT] — Dennis Lynch

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