California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) will plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for sparking the state’s deadliest wildfire, the company announced Monday.
The announcement comes a little less than a year after an investigation confirmed that power lines owned by the utility sparked the Camp Fire, which burned 153,336 acres, killed 85 people and scorched the town of Paradise.
“We cannot replace all that the fire destroyed, but our hope is that this plea agreement, along with our rebuilding efforts, will help the community move forward from this tragic incident,” PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson said in a statement reported by Reuters.
The plea is part of a March 17 agreement with the Butte County District Attorney’s office.
According to the agreement, the county would drop all criminal proceedings against the utility and, in exchange, it would plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of accidentally starting a fire.
It would also pay a fine of $3.5 million maximum and $500,000 in legal costs, as well as put $15 million towards water for residents who relied on the Miocene Canal destroyed in the fire.
The announcement also comes three days after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was willing to approve PG&E’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy, which it entered in early 2019 as it faced billions in liabilities from the fires.
As part of that agreement, it would pay $13.5 billion to fire victims, The New York Times reported…
The fire was sparked when a tower more than 100 years old malfunctioned. The utility had failed to inspect it for nearly 20 years…
Source: EcoWatch.com (excerpt)