PG&E pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges over Camp Fire

PG&E

PG&E announced on Monday it has pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the utility causing the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive blaze in California history.

The Camp Fire killed 85 people in Northern California and destroyed much of the town of Paradise. The blaze burned 153,336 acres and destroyed 18,804 structures. 

Last week, PG&E reached a plea agreement with the Butte County District Attorney’s Office. In addition to the 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter, PG&E pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully starting a fire.

Butte County Superior Court and a bankruptcy court must still approve of the agreement, PG&E stated in a news release.

The plea deal calls for PG&E to pay the maximum penalty of approximately $4 million in fines, including the expenses related to the Butte County DA’s investigation. PG&E has also agreed to fund the next five years of efforts to restore water access to residents impacted by the loss of the Miocene Canal, which the fire destroyed. 

“We cannot change the devastation or ever forget the loss of life that occurred,” PG&E CEO Bill Johnson said. “Today’s charges underscore the reality of all that was lost, and we hope that accepting those charges helps bring more certainty to the path forward so we can get victims paid fairly and quickly.”

PG&E previously reached settlements with all victims groups from wildfires in 2015, 2017 and 2018. The settlements total about $25.5 billion, Johnson said. 

In Jan. 2019, PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while faced with approximately $30 billion in wildfire-related liabilities. PG&E is still working to get its company reorganization plan approved by the bankruptcy court. 

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