Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

PG&E Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter for Sparking California’s Deadliest Fire

Climate
PG&E Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter for Sparking California’s Deadliest Fire
A neighborhood in Paradise, California destroyed by the Camp Fire. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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 plea agreement announced Monday still needs to be approved by the state and bankruptcy courts.

The manslaughter plea might make it easier for fire victims to claim damages from the utility, but many expressed anger at the agreement.

Paradise resident Kirk Trostle, who lost his home to the flames and saw his family dispersed after the fire, told The New York Times he wanted to see charges brought against PG&E officers.

"They decimated my entire town," Mr. Trostle said. "To me, this is just a drop in the bucket for what should be happening to PG&E."

Mindy Spatt of the Utility Reform Network agreed.

"You know, if corporations are people as the Supreme Court has suggested, PG&E would be in jail right now. That is normally the penalty for manslaughter," Spatt told The Los Angeles Times. "I think from the customer end, it kind of feels like PG&E got away with murder."

The fire was sparked when a tower more than 100 years old malfunctioned. The utility had failed to inspect it for nearly 20 years.

While PG&E is to blame for the the immediate spark, the fire was also partly fueled by hot, dry conditions made more likely by the climate crisis.

Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending


piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In an alarming new study, scientists found that climate change is already harming children's diets.

Read More Show Less
Wildfires within the Arctic Circle in Alaska on June 4, 2020. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data processed by Pierre Markuse. CC BY 2.0

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

Earth had its second-warmest year on record in 2020, just 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.04°F) behind the record set in 2016, and 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA reported January 14.

Read More Show Less

In December of 1924, the heads of all the major lightbulb manufacturers across the world met in Geneva to concoct a sinister plan. Their talks outlined limits on how long all of their lightbulbs would last. The idea is that if their bulbs failed quickly customers would have to buy more of their product. In this video, we're going to unpack this idea of purposefully creating inferior products to drive sales, a symptom of late-stage capitalism that has since been coined planned obsolescence. And as we'll see, this obsolescence can have drastic consequences on our wallets, waste streams, and even our climate.

Read More Show Less