Two settlements have received approval, one for the victims of the wildfires and one for insurance companies.
A San Francisco federal bankruptcy judge has approved two settlements from Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. for its role in the 2018 wildfires in Northern California.
The two settlements total $24.5 billion and acknowledge PG&E equipment sparked several fires.
The two settlements from Pacific Gas and Electric Corp are for the victims of the fires that devastated regions throughout Northern California, as well as the insurance companies that were required to pay wildfire damage claims to home, business, vehicle and other property owners. PG&E has acknowledged the role it played in those massive 2018 fires. The utility admits that its equipment has been responsible for igniting a number of devastating wildfires not only that year but also across recent years.
The settlement will be divided with $13.5 billion for the victims of the catastrophic wildfires, and $11 billion to reimburse insurance companies that were forced to make payments on wildfire insurance claims for fires caused by PG&E equipment.
The Pacific Gas and Electric settlement was decided by US Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali.
Judge Montali released his settlement decision following a lengthy hearing earlier this week. After the five hours session, the judge chose this action to facilitate the company’s bid to work its way through bankruptcy proceedings before its deadline of June 30, 2020. That date represents the time at which PG&E could become eligible for the wildfire fund backed by California.
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The judge also permitted the pursuit of a civil suit against the utility by families affected by a 2016 fire. That “Ghost Ship” fire in December of that year killed 36 people. Their families will now be able to head to trial on that case to determine whether or not the company was liable for that fire was well.
California Governor Gavin Newsome continues to oppose the utility’s bankruptcy plan. The governor feels that a greater priority would be placed on safety following a company restructuring including a replacement of the board of directors. The proposed settlement is still subject to review by the Insurance Commissioner’s office as well as by the public, in addition to court approval.
“Today marks an important milestone – the Bankruptcy Court has approved our settlement agreements resolving all major wildfire claims,” said Pacific Gas and Electric in a statement distributed via email. “This brings us one significant step closer to getting victims paid so they can rebuild their lives.”