PG&E Offers $105M ‘Wildfire Assistance' Plan

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. plans to set up a $105 million fund to help survivors of recent California wildfires likely started by the utility's equipment, according to a court filing Wednesday.

PG&E's "wildfire assistance program" would provide relief for people who lost property during huge blazes in 2017 and 2018, said the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The plan requires court approval. PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection in January, saying it faced at least $30 billion in legal claims from wildfire victims.

The program would be administered by an independent third party chosen in consultation with lawyers for PG&E's creditors. It's intended to assist victims who are uninsured, still need help with housing costs or have "other urgent needs," the filing said.

Victims "most in need, including those who are currently without adequate shelter (e.g., living in tents)," would be prioritized, documents said.

PG&E's equipment is the prime suspect in the cause of October 2017 fires in Napa and Sonoma counties and last November's fire that wiped out the town of Paradise.

PG&E Chief Financial Officer Jason Wells announced the assistance program Monday at a creditors' meeting, during which he said the utility doesn't yet know when it will file a plan to emerge from bankruptcy.

Wells said the company recognizes it must act as quickly as possible, but said a lot of work remains to be done before PG&E can file its bankruptcy recovery plan, including working with state lawmakers to pass new laws limiting its future wildfire liabilities.

"We understand the impact these fires have on their communities," Wells said Monday.

Judge Dennis Montali will consider the assistance program proposal at a May 22 hearing, according to Wednesday's filing. Funds could be available to victims as soon as possible after the court approves it, the utility said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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