PG&E has agreed to pay local governments a combined $43.4 million to compensate for starting fires in 2019 and 2020 that destroyed hundreds of homes, forced mass evacuations and left four people dead in Northern California.
Under the settlement, Sonoma County and several of its cities will share $31 million for the 2019 Kincade Fire. In separate settlements, Shasta and Tehama counties agreed to divvy up a $12.4 million payment to offset damages from the September 2020 Zogg fire.
The utility is still under criminal investigation in the Zogg fire that killed four people. The fire has been blamed on a leaning tree that fell onto a power line in high winds. PG&E has said it believes the tree may have been marked for removal before the fire but cannot say for sure.
Meanwhile, the company is being criminally prosecuted in Sonoma County for the Oct. 23, 2019 Kincade fire, which Cal Fire blamed on the power company’s failure to properly decommission a transmission line near Geyserville that eventually fell in high winds. Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Santa Rosa are among the Sonoma County cities that will receive compensation for their costs in the Kincade fire, which left six firefighters injured and prompted the largest evacuation in county history.
In a statement, the chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors said the proceeds of the settlement will provide “significant funds to reimburse public and natural resources lost in the fire,” and added: "Holding PG&E accountable becomes increasingly important as utility-caused wildfires continue to ravage the state and region.”
PG&E CEO Patti Poppe issued a statement indicating the company was “pleased” to resolve the lawsuits and help recovery efforts as part of her commitment to “make it right and make it safe for our customers and communities.”
"Local cities and counties are critical to the fabric of our lives, and today's resolution reflects our commitment to supporting them and all they are doing to rebuild after these two fires,” she said. “We look forward to continuing to partner with these local entities as we work to strengthen our energy systems and deliver for our customers and communities."