Wildfire victim: PG&E filing to delay lawsuit

02 February, 2019, 17:32 | Author: Billie Castillo
  • Wildfire-scorched PG&E, California's biggest utility, files for bankruptcy

PG&E crew work on power lines to fix damage caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 21, 2018.

California's power grid operator said on Tuesday the bankruptcy filing by PG&E Corp and its Pacific Gas and Electric Co utility, the biggest US power company, has not had any effect on the state's power grid and energy markets.

The company filed for bankruptcy Tuesday in the face of hundreds of lawsuits from victims of wildfires in 2017 and 2018, including the nation's deadliest wildfire in a century.

PG&E, which provides electricity and natural gas to 16 million customers in northern and central California and employs 24,000 people, vowed to keep the lights on as it grapples with fire-related costs it estimates at more than $30 billion. Last year, lawmakers gave it permission to raise rates to cover wildfire losses from 2017. The California Public Utilities Commission scrambled ahead of the deadline to ensure PG&E would have financing that the company says it would need to continue providing electric and gas service under Chapter 11.

Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation and its operational subsidiary PG&E Company, the company accused of starting several of California's record-breaking wildfires in 2017 and 2018, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

"Throughout this process, we are fully committed to enhancing our wildfire safety efforts, as well as helping restoration and rebuilding efforts across the communities impacted by the devastating Northern California wildfires", interim CEO John R. Simon said in a statement.

Investigators have determined PG&E started multiple California wildfires in 2017, and the company is facing allegations that its equipment started the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive blaze in state history.

In a regulatory filing, BlueMountain also cited a PG&E form 8-K earlier this month in which the company said it could shore up liquidity by using its assets to secure issuance of more capital, or access alternative capital.

PG&E works on power lines to fix damage caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 21, 2018.

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PG&E said the bankruptcy will not affect electric or gas service and will allow for an "orderly, fair and expeditious resolution" of wildfire claims.

Some worry that PG&E's contracts with providers such as solar companies could be renegotiated under less favorable terms because of the bankruptcy negotiations, but it's unclear whether that will be the case.

At that session, activists said the company shouldn't be borrowing more money, CBS San Francisco reports.

PG&E's bankruptcy filing made clear that it will continue its operations, including fire prevention efforts.

"PG&E is a regulated utility and we're going to try and do everything we can to make sure the people, the tax payer and the rate payers in California are protected", Becerra said.

PG&E "also filed for bankruptcy in April 2001 near the height of an electricity debacle marked by rolling blackouts and the manipulation of the energy market", the Associated Press points out, adding that, "PG&E emerged from bankruptcy three years later but obtained billions of dollars in higher payments from ratepayers".

Dodd authored last year's wildfire liability law that sought to stabilize PG&E's finances and avoid bankruptcy. To achieve that, utilities must switch to buying power from renewable sources.

BlueMountain Capital Management LLC, a NY investment firm that bought shares right before the stock collapsed, has challenged the California power giant's plans to seek bankruptcy protection.

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