Sep. 14--Pacific Gas & Electric has reached a tentative $11 billion settlement to compensate a group of insurance companies for claims they paid out to tens of thousands of residents and businesses hit by 2017 wildfires and the 2018 Camp fire.
The sum is below the $20 billion originally requested by insurers to cover losses but a boost from the $8.5 billion PG&E offered up just four days ago.
The agreement was blasted by some wildfire victims who still have no tentative deal. That pool includes burned-out households, businesses and those with wrongful death claims against the utility.
Those parties appear to be far apart in the negotiations, although the deadline for people who lost homes, businesses or loved ones to file a claim and be included as a creditor in the bankruptcy case -- Oct. 21 -- is fast approaching.
PG&E outlined a plan Monday to establish a trust capped at $8.4 billion to compensate tens of thousands of people and businesses with losses from 19 different fires.
But that sum was rebuffed as vastly insufficient according to court filings on behalf of wildfire victims estimating their losses at $54 billion. Santa Rosa resident Patrick McCallum, who lost his home in the Tubbs fire and lobbies on behalf of wildfire victims with the group Up from the Ashes, characterized the $11 billion deal as an agreement that awards hedge funds that bailed out insurance companies by buying their claims at steep discounts.
"PG&E focuses on taking care of hedge funds and Wall Street and insurance companies and not on victims," McCallum said.
The draft agreement offers $2.5 billion more than what PG&E offered to insurance companies earlier this week, causing concern from other groups that it's drawing down the pot of money available to individual victims with losses from the fires.
It's the latest deal reached between PG&E and its creditors in closed-door negotiations as the company builds a road map for exiting the bankruptcy protection it sought in January under mounting liability for wildfires caused by its power grid. The plans, including a $1 billion payout proposal reached in June to pay local government entities for costs incurred during firefights and recoveries, must be approved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Friday's plan settles with about 85% of insurance carriers with claims against PG&E, according to a statement from the utility announcing the plan. Bill Johnson, the utility's president and chief executive officer, called the agreement "another step in doing what's right for the communities, businesses, and individuals affected by the devastating wildfires."
"As we work to resolve the remaining claims of those who've suffered, we are also focused on safely and reliably delivering energy to our customers, improving our systems and infrastructure, and continuing to support California's clean energy goals. We are committed to becoming the utility our customers deserve."
PG&E provides electric and gas services across 70,000 square miles of Northern and Central California and employs 24,000 people, including more than 700 in Sonoma County.
State fire investigators said PG&E's power lines and equipment ignited all but three of the catastrophic wildfires that broke out over the past three years.
One of those outliers is the 2017 Tubbs fire, which started near Calistoga in northern Napa County and burned west over the Mayacamas Mountains into Sonoma County and Santa Rosa neighborhoods, destroying about 5,300 homes and killing 22 people in Sonoma and Napa counties.
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