Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) on Monday said it would plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 84 victims of the Camp Fire in November 2018. It also agreed to plead guilty to one count of unlawfully starting the wildfire.
In addition, the San Francisco-based combination utility agreed to pay $4 million in penalties.
As California courts are closed because of the coronavirus, April 24 has tentatively been set for the formal plea in Superior Court in Butte County.
Subject to approval by the federal bankruptcy court and the court, the agreement also calls for PG&E to supply water for the next five years to local residents as a canal was destroyed by the fire, which devastated the towns of Paradise and Concow and surrounding areas.
“The 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,” said PG&E CEO Bill Johnson. The lessons learned for the Camp Fire tragedy remain a “driving force” for the utility’s transformation.
“We cannot change the devastation or ever forget the loss of life; all of us at PG&E deeply regret the fire and the company’s part in it. We have previously acknowledged our role, and since the fire we have worked side-by-side with Butte County residents and public officials to help the Paradise region recover and rebuild.”
PG&E settlements to date total about $25.5 billion for a series of fires in 2015, 2017 and 2018, with Camp Fire the worst in California’s history.