PG&E’s proposal to pay $25.5 billion for a series of deadly Northern California wildfires ignited by its equipment faced a final barrage of resistance from critics Thursday, who told a federal judge that the plan will do more to enrich savvy investors than help fire victims rebuild their lives.
The impassioned arguments unfolded during the closing phase of a two-week trial that will determine whether the nation’s largest utility can end its nearly year-and-half bankruptcy by a June 30 deadline. PG&E needs to close the case by that date to qualify for insurance coverage for future wildfires from a $21 billion fund created by the Legislature last year.
PG&E has cleared all the other key hurdles, but now needs U.S Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali to approve its complex plan to settle more than $50 billion in claimed losses from deadly 2017 and 2018 wildfires at a deep discount.
PG&E critic’s maintain the bankruptcy process was rigged in favor of Wall Street hedge funds and other investors who are poised to make billions of dollars off the case. By comparison, wildfire victims may not get all of the $13.5 billion promised to them while also having to continue to worry about the risks posed by a utility known for managerial neglect and a fraying electrical grid.
Critics of the plan said PG&E has not proven it has changed its corporate culture emphasizing profits over the safety of the 16 million people who rely on it for power.