PG&E Will Face Manslaughter Charges in Connection With California Fire

A judge determined on Wednesday that Pacific Gas & Electric would be tried for manslaughter for its role in a Northern California wildfire that killed four people in 2020.

After a preliminary hearing, a judge in Shasta County found that there was sufficient evidence to move through with 11 felony and misdemeanour charges against the nation’s largest utility, including involuntary murder and carelessly sparking a fire.

We got rid of twenty more charges altogether.

The largest utility in the country pled not guilty in June and was set to be arraigned on February 15.

A forest fire called the Zogg Fire broke out in September of 2020 and devastated a county on the Oregon border. Before it was contained, the fire had scorched an area of 88 square miles (228 square kilometres) and claimed the lives of at least 200 people.

An eight-year-old girl and her mother were among the four persons killed when their car was engulfed by flames as they fled their home.

The state fire marshal has determined that a pine tree’s collision with a PG&E power line was the initial cause of the blaze. Last year, the California Public Utilities Commission proposed fining PG&E over $155 million for failing to remove the tree, one of two that had been marked for removal.

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While there will be no criminal charges filed against company officials, the corporation itself may be punished or required to take corrective action.

PG&E issued a statement saying that while the company acknowledged that their equipment was responsible for the fire, “we feel PG&E did not conduct any crimes.”

The utility has stated that it is “continuing its work to make it safe and make it right,” including the resolution of claims related to previous incidents and the ongoing effort to make the system safer.

About 16 million people in central and northern California are PG&E’s customers. The company’s disregard for California’s ageing electricity grid has been blamed for sparking a number of devastating wildfires in the state.

Since 2017, more than 30 wildfires have been reported in California, with PG&E being held responsible for at least some of them. These flames have destroyed over 23,000 structures and killed over 100 people.

A lawsuit regarding the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires, notably the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people and burned part of the town of Paradise in Butte County, was settled last year for $117 million by former executives and directors.

After PG&E settled with wildfire victims for $13.5 billion between January 2019 and June 2020, when the utility was in bankruptcy, the resulting complaint was filed.

PG&E accepted responsibility for the Camp Fire and was fined $4 million, the highest permissible penalty for the 84 charges of involuntary manslaughter it faced.

As part of a settlement with prosecutors in six counties hit hard by the 2021 Dixie Fire and the 2019 Kincade Fire, PG&E agreed to pay more than $55 million last year to avoid criminal prosecution.

In the Dixie Fire, around 1,300 structures were destroyed. West of a dam in the Sierra Nevada, a tree crashed into electrical distribution cables, starting the fire.

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