Northern California power generator Pacific Gas & Electric informed federal regulators that it expects to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by end of this month.
PG&E’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said that its decision came after a review of its options with the help of outside advisors. The San Francisco-based utility is under investigation for any role its equipment might have played in the deadly wildfires of late 2018, only one year after getting blamed for an earlier, devastating rash of blazes.
The company and its units “are facing extraordinary challenges relating to a series of catastrophic wildfires,” the SEC filing reads. “…commencing reorganization cases under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code is appropriate, necessary and in the best interests of all stakeholders, including wildfire claimants, PG&E’s other creditors and shareholders, and is ultimately the only viable option to restore PG&E’s financial stability to fund ongoing operations and provide safe service to customers.”
PG&E informed the SEC that it expects to file the bankruptcy petition on or about Monday, January 29. The utility expects that the bankruptcy process will allow it to continue electric and natural gas service delivery, continue its restoration and rebuilding efforts following the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, resolve the liabilities in those cases and work with regulators and legislators on the long-term needs of customers and the company, according to the filing.
This weekend, PG&E’s board of directors appointed general counsel John Simon as interim CEO after Geisha Williams resigned the top spot she had held since 2017. The company could be liable for billions of dollars in damages if it’s determined to be at fault for the wildfires, according to reports, and maybe even criminally liable if found to have violated its probation from a 2010 natural gas line explosion.
The SEC filing also details PG&E’s connection to several wildfires late last year. Those include the Camp Fire which started November 8 near the city of Paradise and ultimately killed 86 people and consumed close to 19,000 homes and buildings as well as more than 150,000 acres.
PG&E has noted that a transmission line relayed and de-energized on the same day the fire began. It also cited other equipment failures related to the blazes.