This week PG&E appeared in bankruptcy court to answer questions under oath put to it by wildfire survivors and other creditors. PG&E and its lawyers resisted answering some questions and, in one instance, outright refused to do so even after being directed to answer by the United States Bankruptcy Trustee. (So much for PG&E’s commitment to “transparency” during the bankruptcy process.)
According to a submission to the Securities and Exchange Commission today, PG&E stated that it “believes it is probable that the Utility’s equipment will be determined to be an ignition point of the 2018 Camp [F]ire.” As a result, the company is including a $10.5 billion pre-tax charge related to Camp Fire claims, along with a new $1.0 billion charge relating to the 2017 Atlas and Cascade Fires. Altogether, the company has reserved a total of $14 billion to pay wildfire survivors who make a claim in bankruptcy.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that PG&E was warned in 2010 that the transmission line suspected of causing the Camp Fire would soon face an overload of power moving through it. Despite this warning, PG&E took several years to propose a $30.3 million repair project. Even after this, PG&E continued to defer repairs until December 2018, more than one month after the deadly Camp Fire. When PG&E finally inspected the line closely after the fire, it discovered additional problems.
Last Friday, PG&E told U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup that it isn’t able to comply with state rules designed to reduce wildfire risks 100 percent of the time. Judge Alsup is in charge of PG&E’s felony probation for safety violations and obstruction of justice convictions and continues to criticize PG&E’s safety procedures. In a court filing, PG&E estimated that to make its electrical lines safe, they would need to hire 650,000 new employees, at a cost of up to $150 billion, and a rate increase to customers of at least 500%.