Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

California's Biggest Utility Plans Bankruptcy Filing After Wildfires

Energy
California's Biggest Utility Plans Bankruptcy Filing After Wildfires
California Army National Guard conducting search and debris clearing operations on Nov. 17 in Paradise, California. U.S. Air National Guard / Senior Airman Crystal Housman

California's largest utility is preparing to declare bankruptcy after a string of wildfires in 2017 and 2018 left it with $30 billion or more in potential liabilities. The announcement comes a day after CEO Geisha Williams stepped down.

"PG&E currently plans to file for Chapter 11 on or about January 29, 2019," the company announced Monday. "We do not expect any impact to natural gas or electric service for our customers as a result of the Chapter 11 process."


A report from the Wall Street Journal on Sunday determined that PG&E power lines and other equipment started more than 1,500 fires in recent years—or about one fire a day. Several of these fires grew into major and deadly infernos exacerbated by the region's unrelenting drought.

State officials determined that PG&E's electrical equipment was responsible for at least 18 of 21 significant fires in 2017 as well as fires in 2018, The New York Times noted.

Some of those fires were sparked by its power lines falling onto trees, which critics say is a result of PG&E not properly maintaining trees and limbs around the lines.

The energy giant is facing multiple lawsuits from wildfire victims and is being investigated for its potential role in starting the record-breaking Camp Fire in Northern California that killed 86 people, burned thousands of buildings and destroyed the town of Paradise.

The utility's safety record has been under fire ever since it was found guilty for its role in the 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, California.

PG&E provides natural gas and electric service to approximately 16 million people in northern and central California.

UC Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein told The San Francisco Chronicle that the immediate impact on its customers would be "almost negligible." Lynn LoPucki, a UCLA law professor, added that filing for Chapter 11 does not necessarily mean that customers' bills will increase.

However, one of the biggest losers could be the environment, as PG&E made commitments to help California reach its ambitious clean energy goals, including investments in lower-emission vehicles, renewables, energy efficiency and infrastructure.

A bankruptcy judge could advise PG&E to curtail such investments, Borenstein explained to The Chronicle.

"I could very well see the judge saying, 'You're gonna have to let somebody else lead the fight against climate change; you gotta focus on staying financially viable,'" he said.

Project goal: To create an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to leather, in this case using fungi.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Plastic waste is bulldozed at a landfill. Needpix

The plastic recycling model was never economically viable, but oil and gas companies still touted it as a magic solution to waste, selling the American public a lie so the companies could keep pushing new plastic.

Read More Show Less

Trending

54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Maria Symchych-Navrotska / Getty Images

By Pamela Davis-Kean

With in-person instruction becoming the exception rather than the norm, 54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Initial projections from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which conducts research and creates commonly used standardized tests, suggest that these fears are well-grounded, especially for children from low-income families.

Read More Show Less
A teenager reads a school English assignment at home after her school shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 22, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

The pandemic has affected everyone, but mental health experts warn that youth and teens are suffering disproportionately and that depression and suicide rates are increasing.

Read More Show Less
In an ad released by Republican Voters Against Trump, former coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye roasted the president for his response. Republican Voters Against Trump / YouTube

Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch