PG&E Corp. will pay a $45 million penalty for its role in starting the second-largest wildfire in California history under a settlement proposal issued by state regulators.
The California utility giant agreed to the shareholder-funded penalty proposed by the California Public Utility Commission’s safety division, according to a filing Monday. The regulatory agency will vote on the proposal at its November 16 meeting, a statement said.
The Dixie Fire started on July 13, 2021, after a pine tree fell on PG&E’s power lines, charring more than 960,000 acres of land and destroying 1,300 structures. It took PG&E workers several hours to respond to the initial sign of trouble on its equipment that state investigators found responsible for causing the blaze. Last year, the utility avoided criminal charges stemming from the fire by reaching a financial settlement with district attorneys representing counties that were impacted by the conflagration.
PG&E said it doesn’t contest three of the CPUC allegations involving record keeping or process violations, which are unrelated to the fire, and said it will fund an initiative to transition to electric records for its patrols and inspections as part of the agreement. PG&E disputes other alleged violations based on the state fire investigation report, the utility said. The agreement doesn’t prevent PG&E from recovering costs related to the blaze, the company added.
Preventing wildfires and resolving civil and criminal liability from the blazes have weighed heavily on PG&E for years. Fires sparked by power lines and transformers that have destroyed more than 1 million acres and killed scores of people sent the company into bankruptcy in 2019.
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