1 of 9
The Latest: California governor says PG&E not trusted player
January 15, 2019
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on utility PG&E seeking bankruptcy protection (all times local):
California Gov. Newsom says “safety, reliability and affordability” are his main concerns as he addresses the likely bankruptcy of the state’s largest utility.
Newsom sought to assure the public Monday that Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s potential bankruptcy won’t result in power shut-offs. Unlike the utility’s 2001 bankruptcy amid California’s energy crisis, the utility is now facing bankruptcy due to massive liabilities from deadly wildfires.
The Democratic governor says protecting victims of the wildfires and ratepayers is a top priority for his new administration but he hasn’t decided on any action. He says staving off the bankruptcy filing is ideal but it may not be possible.
He says PG&E has not been a “trusted player” in the past.
A California state senator says bankruptcy proceedings by PG&E would raise bills for utilities customers and could stop wildfire victims from getting all the money they’re owed.
Sen. Bill Dodd, who chaired a special committee last year focusing on wildfire costs and prevention, said Monday that creditors are the priority in bankruptcy proceedings.
Pacific Gas & Electric announced Monday it would file for bankruptcy protection because it faces tens of billions of dollars in potential damages from deadly and destructive wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
Dodd said lawmakers and the governor’s office are looking for ways to ensure wildfire victims are reimbursed.
One option legislators considered last year was creating some type of pooled insurance fund that could “backstop” expenses.
A utilities expert says a bankruptcy filing will help Pacific Gas & Electric Co. take on the many wildfire lawsuits it faces.
Hugh Wynne, with the investment research firm Sovereign Research, said Monday bankruptcy will allow PG&E to consolidate all the suits before a single, bankruptcy judge. That will allow the company to avoid jury trials that could result in damages it can’t pay.
Frank Pitre, an attorney for hundreds of wildfire victims, said a bankruptcy filing will put lawsuits pending against the company on hold and in limbo. He said PG&E should have consulted with victims and insurance carriers before announcing its plans.
The company is filing for bankruptcy.
Pacific Gas & Electric says it could be liable for more than $30 billion in property losses and other costs associated with wildfires in California last year and in 2017.
The company included the figure in a filing on Sunday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. PG&E told the SEC the company’s board of directors had determined filing for bankruptcy was appropriate.
As of Friday, PG&E said it was facing roughly 50 lawsuits stemming from a wildfire in November that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed at least 86 people. It was facing another 700 or so lawsuits stemming from wildfires in Northern California in 2017.
The cause of the Paradise fire is under investigation, but investigators are looking into the possibility it was sparked by a PG&E power line that malfunctioned.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll work to make sure consumers have access to safe and affordable power and that fire victims are treated fairly after PG&E announced plans to file for bankruptcy.
Pacific Gas & Electric announced Monday it plans to file petitions to reorganize under Chapter 11 on or about Jan. 29.
The utility has already been blamed by state fire investigators for wildfires that broke out in October 2017.
It also faces lawsuits from victims of last year’s Northern California fire that killed at least 86 people. It was the deadliest wildfire in recent U.S. history.
No cause has been determined, but investigators are looking into the possibility it was sparked by a malfunctioned line.
Late Sunday, the utility said that chief executive Geisha Williams had resigned and that John Simon will serve as interim chief executive.
Facing potentially colossal liabilities over deadly California wildfires, PG&E will file for bankruptcy protection.
The announcement Monday follows the resignation of the power company’s chief executive a day earlier.
PG&E said Monday that it’s given the required 15-day advance notice that it plans to file for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection.
The company has already been blamed by state fire investigators for wildfires that broke out in October 2017.
The company says will be able to gain access to capital and resources it needs to continue providing service to customers as it restructures.
Late Sunday, PG&E Corp. said that CEO Geisha Williams resigned, and that John Simon will serve as interim chief executive.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com