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PG&E enters $13.5B settlement agreement linked to Calif. wildfires

PG&E Corp. reached a $13.5 billion settlement agreement with victims of California wildfires linked to its electric transmission infrastructure, a move that could assist the company in its bankruptcy proceedings.

The power company said Dec. 6 that the agreement, which resolves individual claims with the victims of 2017 and 2018 wildfires, the 2015 Butte fire and the 2016 Ghost Ship fire, is its third major settlement over the California wildfires. The settlement, which was expected according to earlier media reports, is subject to approval from the bankruptcy court.

PG&E is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, along with its subsidiary Pacific Gas and Electric Co., after its role in the devastating California fires, which killed many people and destroyed thousands of businesses and homes.

If approved, the settlement would put PG&E "on a sustainable path forward" to emerge from Chapter 11 by the June 30, 2020, deadline, the company said. The company has received more than $12 billion of equity backstop commitments to support the settlement and its plan.

"From the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal," PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson said. "We want to help our customers, our neighbors and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires."

PG&E previously reached an $11 billion agreement with insurance companies and other entities that have already paid insurance coverage for claims relating to the 2017 and 2018 wildfires. The settlement is being debated at the bankruptcy court, with California Gov. Gavin Newsom objecting to the approval and threatening a state takeover of PG&E.

On Dec. 6, the bankruptcy judge declined to immediately rule on the proposed $11 billion settlement. The company has also entered a $1 billion settlement with cities, counties and other public entities.