The good news is that your electricity will stay on. The bad news is that PG&E is now playing a game of chicken with the Legislature over who is going to pay for the Camp Fire’s catastrophic destruction. Senate Bill 901 allows PG&E to pass the cost of fire damage along to rate payers, but only for fires that started after 2018.

About a month after SB901 became law, a PG&E transmission line failed in Butte County, igniting the most destructive wildfire in California history. The Camp Fire killed 86 people and destroyed almost 19,000 structures.

PG&E estimates it’s liable for $30 billion, an inflated figure, for the fires it caused in the period of time not covered by SB901. They only carried $840 million worth of liability insurance, which covers less than 3% of what they think they owe. No business in their right mind would carry so little insurance, but PG&E believes that it will win a staring contest with the Legislature, and be allowed to pass the costs to customers.

And that staring contest begins now.

According to a document filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, PG&E knows it could borrow money or sell more stock, but they don’t know if they’ll be able to raise their prices, so bankruptcy is the best option for their stakeholders:

PG&E believes that it currently could access, outside of a restructuring under Chapter 11, a significant amount of capital, but only in the form of secured indebtedness, using the Utility’s assets to secure such additional funding, or in more esoteric forms of alternative capital that would be relatively dilutive or expensive.

[But this] is not in the best interests of PG&E and its stakeholders, and would not address the fundamental issues and challenges PG&E faces, including uncertainty regarding whether, when and to what degree the Utility will be able to recover costs related to wildfires through ratemaking.

PG&E Form 8-K, filed January 13, 2019

Chapter 11 bankruptcy isn’t “going out of business”, it’s a protection from paying debts while a company re-organizes itself. While in Chapter 11 protection, a company can borrow money to fund its operations, and those loans get paid back before anything else. When a company has fixed its finances, it emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

But this could take years. That’s years the fire victims could go without compensation. It’s years that PG&E will continue to lobby the Legislature to change the rules to allow it to charge customers for the Camp Fire damage.

And why wouldn’t they? With SB901, the Legislature has already shown that it won’t stand up to PG&E.


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  1. Donna Downing says:

    Why don’t we stand up to all government agencies that police themselves? We need to have citizens, private citizens, doing that job!!! Enough of big government, people matter! PG&E is just one company, but it is time to look over all agencies to see what we can do to improve them? I do not mean take them over, let shareholders do that work! Taxpayers do the government agency work! Clean up the mess, throw out the lobbiest, get back to work for the people!!!!

  2. D Bowman says:

    Maybe the spark for the fire came from PG&E equipment, but it was the unmanaged forests that provided the tremendous fuel load that caused the devastation. What if it was a lightning strike or a homeless encampment fire that caused the initial spark, just as devastating, but no company with deep pockets to sue. It is the fuel, not the spark that is the problem.

    • Mary Morin says:

      Absolutely – amd don’t forget thatvPG&E also doesn’t keep their areas around their infrastructure clear – nor are they required to be law.

    • You are correct about the tremenous fuel load that made this fire so intense, however, PGE has a shady history and should not be allowed to skate free from their liabilities

    • george gouvas says:

      But is was not a lightning strike it was Outright Negligence on the part of the electric company and it was not the first time.If a private citizen had started the fire they would be held accountable by fine,jail time or both.The consumers are charged to keep the electric company going and in turn the company is responsible for keeping the lines up and running safe.So why put the blame , cost and guilt on the consumers that had nothing to do with starting the fire and the deaths of many human lives.

    • Barbara Gardner says:

      My sentiments exactly, poor forest management is the main reason for the horrific and devastating fire. The state of California is trying to cast blame from themselves and onto PG&E who are trying to lay this disaster on consumers by making them pay for it, it always lands in the lap of the people… and maybe it should, after all it was the people that elected and re-elect the legislatures and leaders who have so neglected their duties in more ways than one, another being the Orville dam. Just costing more in lives and money with each new disaster, all due to neglect by uncaring government officials, elected by the people of California!

      • Well don’ vote Democrat! They have controlled the State & it is the mess brought on by them! Too many liberals!

      • Randy Hood says:

        your absolutely right, Democrats have had control over this state since Reagan, Schwarzenegger didnt have the knowledge or balls to stand up to them. Until the people stop voting for socialist Democrats CA will continue to slide into another failed democrat controlled disaster. The reality that Democrats care about nothing but the power is being exposed thats why they hate Trump, they cant control him, and he knows all their dirty little secrets

  3. Rachaela Schuck says:

    I do not understand all aspects of chapter 11 but if it in any way prevents the victims of the fire from receiving money to rebuild then I wouldn’t allow PG&E to file chapter 11.

  4. Through the PUC , in the fiction of protecting customers, The state controls the utility. This is just bullshit to get the electric customers to pay for the California government caused disaster. with out having to raise taxes

  5. M Armstrong says:

    I heard that the former CEO left with a million dollar+ severance. She, and the Board of Directors, should be culpable for negligence in maintaining the lines. Drain them first of all assets before you shift blame to the poor customers, many of which are struggling financially..

  6. You are correct about the tremenous fuel load that made this fire so intense, however, PGE has a shady history and should not be allowed to skate free from their liabilities

  7. it’s pg&e ‘s faulty equipment that started the fire if I started it I would go to jail have to pay restitution and fines I’ve seen it happen several times now with other fires so if anyone else would have to pay then why shouldn’t pg&e??

  8. Jeff Cloutier says:

    A rock and a hard spot. No matter how you dissect it we pay. Negligence and lack of responsibility were obvious long before disaster struck. Bankruptcy starts at the top. Take the money and run is a crime. Infrastructure in the US has been neglected in many areas and we will be paying the price for years to come.

  9. There is blame enough to go around. PG&E has partial blame. But than again equipment fails. The real question here is culpable blame. PG&E because of equipment failure. The state of California for failure to manage our open spaces and Forests. After all the State was warned about the danger on numerous occasions. The home owners who refused to keep the areas around their homes clear of debris. The city / Town governments who failed to keep their city property clear or enforce laws to make property owners keep their property safe. No there’s plenty of blame to go around. Now figure out who pays. It’s not the fault of the uninvolved customer!!!!!!

  10. There is still no official cause released.

    What business would take that much liability? Was government sued for the Oroville dam almost failure … looks like not taking care of infrastructure goes around.

  11. Chris Smith says:

    Here in Placer County – I pay .22, then .28 then .40 per kWh to PG&E. All of us with family sized homes in the San Joaquin Valley go deeply into that .40 tier every Summer because we need AC. I just got back from Arizona where my sister pays a small flat rate to be connected – and .07 per kWh. Her air-conditioning costs her 82% LESS to run than mine. WHY?
    Next – the amount of electricity generated by rooftop solar is so great that the grid can’t handle it and PG&E is scrambling to sell our solar generated energy to neighboring states at a huge discount. However, in spite of this surplus, the PUC has approved PG&E’s plan to put us all on time-of-use to charge us even higher rates when we use our AC on hot summer days. WHY?
    Myself – I’d love to see PG&E forced into Chapter 13 bankruptcy, broken up, and the remaining parts use Arizona’s model to achieve affordable energy.

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