PG&E Is Charged With Manslaughter In A California Wildfire That Killed 4
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A house is seen burning in September 2020 in the Zogg Fire near Ono, Calif. Pacific Gas & Electric was charged with manslaughter and other crimes on Friday in the Northern California wildfire last year that killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes.
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If the utility is convicted of manslaughter, the punishment would be a fine for each person killed in the Zogg Fire last year near the city of Redding. A corporation «can’t go to jail, so we’re talking fines, fees, the ability for the court to order remedial and corrective measures,» Bridgett said.
«One of our primary functions here is to hold them responsible and let the surviving families know that their loved one did not die in vain,» she added.
PG&E CEO Patti Poppe said failing to prevent the fire was not a crime.
«This was a tragedy, four people died. And my coworkers are working so hard to prevent fires and the catastrophic losses that come with them. They have dedicated their careers to it, criminalizing their judgment is not right,» Poppe said in a statement.
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A burned kitten was seen at the Zogg Fire last year.
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Company officials have acknowledged that PG&E hasn’t lived up to expectations in the past but said changes in leadership and elsewhere ensure it’s on the right track and will do better. They have listed a wide range of improvements that include using more advanced technology to avoid setting wildfires and help detect them quicker.
PG&E also remains on criminal probation for a 2010 pipeline explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area city of San Bruno that killed eight people, giving a federal judge oversight of the company. The judge and California power regulators have rebuked PG&E for breaking promises to reduce the dangers posed by trees near its power lines.
The company has acknowledged that its equipment may have played a role in sparking this summer’s Dixie Fire, which has burned nearly 1 million acres and is now the second-largest wildfire in state history.
PG&E emerged from bankruptcy last summer and negotiated a $13.5 billion settlement with some wildfire victims. But it still faces both civil and criminal actions, including charges from the Sonoma County district attorney’s office over the 2019 Kincade Fire that forced nearly 200,000 people to evacuate.
In the meantime, most of the roughly 70,000 victims who have filed claims for the devastation caused by PG&E’s past misdeeds still are awaiting payment from a trust created during the bankruptcy. The trust, which is run independently of PG&E, is facing a nearly $2 billion shortfall because half its funding came in company stock.