PG&E charged with manslaughter in California wildfire (3)

PG&E Corp., the California utility that went bankrupt after its equipment sparked deadly wildfires, has been charged with several felonies, including manslaughter, in connection with a 2020 fire that killed four people.

Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett On Friday, 31 charges were laid against the utility related to the Zogg fire in northern California, about 100 miles from the Oregon border. Eleven were felonies, including four counts of manslaughter. PG&E disputed the allegations.

“PG&E has a habit of causing forest fires repeatedly that don’t get better – it gets worse,” Bridgett said during a news briefing broadcast online. “Those who have lost loved ones need justice. They need those responsible for the murder of their loved ones to be held criminally responsible, especially since this fire was completely preventable.

The Shasta County criminal case is the latest blow to the utility, which came out of bankruptcy information last year after its equipment was accused of starting some of the worst fires in the history of the California. If it turns out that PG&E was negligent in starting a fire, the company will likely have to reimburse the money it takes from a public fund to help utilities pay for the damage caused by the fire. fires caused by their power lines.

PG&E remains on criminal probation related to a fatal natural gas explosion in 2010.

The Zogg fire burned more than 56,000 acres (23,000 hectares) and destroyed 204 buildings.

PG&E accepted California investigators’ conclusion that a tree contacted one of its power lines and started the fire for Zogg, CEO of PG&E Patti Poppe said in a declaration Friday. The utility has resolved numerous claims from victims related to the fire, she said.

Read more: Why California wildfires are putting heat on power companies

“We put everything we have in to prevent forest fires and reduce the risk, ”said Poppe. “While it may seem satisfying for the PG&E company to be accused of a crime, what I do know is that the PG&E company is made up of people, 40,000 people who get up every day to ensure security. safety and end catastrophic forest fires and tragedies like this. Let me be clear, my colleagues are not criminals.

Bridgett also said Shasta County and four others have launched a joint investigation to determine possible criminal liability of PG&E for starting the Dixie Fire, which began in July and became the second largest wildfire in the California history.

“It’s time for them to change,” Bridgett said of PG&E, “and change doesn’t come by doing nothing. We cannot afford to do nothing.

PG&E shares fell 0.3% on Friday.

Evidence suggests the Zogg fire was caused by a tree falling on the utility power line, according to the judge overseeing PG&E criminal probation and federal prosecutors.

Bridgett said PG&E contractors marked the tree for removal as it was deemed unsafe, but it was never cut. Poppe said two skilled arborists independently determined that the tree in question could stay.

The company estimates total responsibility for the blaze at $ 375 million, according to a government filing in July. This figure could increase considerably with the costs of defending another criminal case.

(Updated actions in the 11th paragraph. An earlier version corrected the information on the National Wildlife Fund in the fourth paragraph.)

–With the help of Josh saul.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Marc Chediak in San Francisco at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe ryan to [email protected]

Steve stroth

© 2021 Bloomberg LP All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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