PG&E, utility tied to California wildfires, to file for bankruptcy

Los Angeles: Pacific Gas and Electric, the utility company that has been tied to deadly wildfires in California, said Monday it plans to file for bankruptcy at the end of the month.

The San Francisco-based company said its decision to reorganise under Chapter 11 is tied to more than USD 30 billion in claims it is facing over the so-called 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California — the deadliest in the state’s recent history — that left 86 people dead. The utility is also under scrutiny for blazes in 2017 that devastated the wine region in Northern California and left more than 40 people dead.

“The company today provided the 15-day advance notice required by recently enacted California law that it and its wholly owned subsidiary Pacific Gas and Electric Company currently intend to file petitions to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code on or about January 29,” a statement said.

It said the bankruptcy filing, which saw shares plunge 48 per cent on Monday, should not affect electric or natural gas service to its 16 million customers in California. PG&E has come under intense scrutiny following the devastating wildfires in California after it emerged that some of its equipment may have sparked the blazes. The bankruptcy announcement came a day after Geisha Williams resigned as CEO of the utility and was replaced on an interim basis by executive vice president and general counsel John Simon.

“The people affected by the devastating Northern California wildfires are our customers, our neighbours and our friends, and we understand the profound impact the fires have had on our communities and the need for PG&E to continue enhancing our wildfire mitigation efforts,” Simon said on Monday.

“We remain committed to helping them through the recovery and rebuilding process,” he added. “We believe a court-supervised process under 2 Chapter 11 will best enable PG&E to resolve its potential liabilities in an orderly, fair and expeditious fashion. We expect this process also will enable PG&E to access the capital and resources we need to continue providing our customers with safe service and investing in our systems and infrastructure.”

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