PG&E agrees to pay $ 55 million in fines for two forest fires.

Pacific Gas & Electric agreed on Monday to pay $ 55 million in fines and civil litigation costs filed by forest fire prosecutors in six Northern California counties.

The agreement allows PG&E to avoid prosecution for last year’s Dixie fire – the second largest fire in California history – and the Kincaid fire in 2019. The agreement includes tens of millions of dollars in payments to local organizations, schools and government agencies, and will fund an independent life safety observer for the five-year civil judgment.

Prosecutors said they had filed a civil lawsuit against PG&E to gain more benefits for the victims than the prosecution would allow. The maximum fines for the Dixie fire – which burned 963,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,300 buildings in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta and Tehama counties – were $ 329,417.

“This agreement avoids both bankruptcy and excessive delays for homeowners and tenants in the Dixie Fire – especially those without insurance,” said Michael L. Ramsey, Butt County Attorney’s Office.

Investigators found that a tree had come into contact with PG&E’s power lines near Cresta Dam, about 100 miles north of Sacramento, causing a fire.

The Kincaid fire burned nearly 78,000 acres in Sonoma County, injured four people and destroyed 374 buildings. In December, state regulators fined PG&E $ 125 million for the fire.

“Although the criminal charges have been dismissed, the level of punishment and oversight provided by this decision is greater than could be achieved against a corporation in the criminal court,” said Jill Ravich, Sonoma County Attorney’s Office, the scene of the fire. in Kincaid.

Ms. Ravic said the decision to reach an agreement was also a result of the failure of state lawmakers to pass laws to increase penalties for corporations found in violation of the law. She added that Attorney General Rob Bonta had refused to take any legal action against PG&E.

Mr Bonta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

PG&E said it was working to increase its accountability and transparency to the public, which the agreement would continue to help improve.

“We are committed to doing our part and look forward to working with these communities for a long time to do so properly and safely,” said Patricia K. Pope, CEO of PG&E Corporation.

The settlement does not include the Zogg fire, which killed four people, burned more than 56,000 acres and destroyed 204 buildings in Shasta County in the fall of 2020. In this case, PG&E faces crimes and charges of guilt, including manslaughter.

Federal and state prosecutors had previously won convictions and pleaded guilty to PG&E in connection with pipeline explosions and forest fires. PG&E’s crimes include 84 counts of manslaughter as a result of a fire in the camp that destroyed the city of Paradise in 2018.

The camp fire and several other forest fires dating back to 2015 prompted PG&E to seek protection from bankruptcy after the company amassed $ 30 billion in liability for forest fires. The company went bankrupt in July 2020.

The company has proposed spending billions of dollars on underground power lines to prevent equipment fires.

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