PG&E to Plead Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter for Fire

PG&E Corp. agreed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection to the deadliest wildfire in California history.

The bankrupt utility will pay $4 million in fines for its role in the 2018 Camp Fire, which was sparked by PG&E power lines, according to a statement Monday. The blaze killed 85 people in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, destroying the town of Paradise.

The deal with the Butte County District Attorney’s office resolves all state charges stemming from the blaze, which pushed PG&E into Chapter 11 last year. The announcement comes days after the utility reached a deal with California Governor Gavin Newsom over its restructuring plan, clearing a crucial hurdle in its bankruptcy case.

“Our equipment started the fire,” PG&E Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson said in a statement. “All of us at PG&E deeply regret this tragedy.”

PG&E’s stock rose as much as 21% before the start of regular trading in New York.

PG&E will plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and a single count of unlawfully causing a fire. In addition to the fine, the company has committed to spend as much as $15 million over five years to provide water to Butte County residents affected by fire.

PG&E has already reached $25.5 billion in settlements with fire victims, insurers and government agencies over damages from the Camp Fire and other blazes.

The Camp Fire destroyed more than 18,000 structures and blackened more than 150,000 acres in November 2018. California investigators concluded last year that a worn c-hook on a PG&E utility tower led to the blaze. Regulators said PG&E could have prevented it by conducting proper inspections and repairs.

–With assistance from Christopher Martin and Natalia Kniazhevich.

About the photo: A Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) team member from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) searches through the debris of a home destroyed by the Camp Fire outside of Paradise. Photo by Robert Barker Dec 11, 2018