A California regulatory judge’s decision would add $462 million in penalties against Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), bringing the total penalties in the company’s wildfire settlement to $2.1 billion.
If the San Francisco-based combination utility agrees to the modified settlement it would be the largest penalty ever assessed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
The revised settlement issued Thursday by a CPUC administrative law judge stands as the final agreement between the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division and Office of Safety Advocate, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, and PG&E. The five-member CPUC could ask to review the decision, meaning the regulators -- not the judge -- would have the final say.
Tied to PG&E’s role in the series of catastrophic fires in 2017 and 2018, the proposed penalties include $1.8 billion in wildfire disallowances, a $200 million fine payable to the state’s General Fund, and $114 million in system enhancements and corrective actions by the utility.
In addition, any tax benefits normally going to shareholders and estimated to be in excess of $500 million would be applied to benefit utility customers, said CPUC spokesperson Terrie Prosper.
The settlement and ALJ’s decision are a culmination of a CPUC investigation into fires in Northern California in October 2017 and November 2018.
PG&E is “disappointed” with the ALJ’s decision and the increase in fines and penalties, said spokesperson Melissa Subbotin.
“PG&E worked diligently over many months with multiple parties including the CPUC’s own [staffs] to reach a joint $1.7 billion settlement agreement that addressed multiple needs and would allow for additional investments to further strengthen the company’s electric operations,” Subbotin said.