PG&E has agreed to settle California forest fire charges.
The state of California is known for its wildfires that can be especially devastating. There have been quite a few fires that have permanently damaged communities and led to long-term side effects for all involved. Now, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is set to pay $12 million for its role in the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, California, in 2019. PG&E is headquartered in San Francisco and the company provides natural gas and electricity to more than five million subscribers in the the northern two-thirds of California.
PG&E has been accused, in general, of charges which consisted of five felonies and 28 misdemeanors including “unlawfully starting a fire which caused bodily injury, unlawfully burning inhabited structures, unlawfully causing a fire which burned forests, and various air pollution crimes,” the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Offices stated. It has been pleaded guilty to a bunch of charges, beginning in 2020 summer.
The Kincade fire was a wildfire that burned significantly to and around the county, and according to a settlement with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the company will contribute to a $40 million to the state’s general fund and an additional $85 million toward resolving claims that it let go of transmission facilities in its territory.
Knowing that residents were are at particularly high risk of experiencing wildfires, insurance companies began allegedly eliminating coverage for homeowners in mountainous areas, leaving them with the state’s FAIR plan as the only option to collect on damages. These homeowners wrote letters via email explaining that they’ll be dropped from coverage, forcing them to advocate for themselves should they undergo any fire issues.
California’s FAIR Plan provides basic coverage for high-risk properties when traditional insurance companies will not. The FAIR plan was established by statute in August 1968 and issues policies on behalf of its member companies. However, the basic coverage is lacking, to say the least.
Mary Meyer, an 85-year-old widow, was one of many mountain residents to receive a letter informing her she’d be losing coverage. Meyer shared, “They simply said, this is a high-risk fire area, and we are not renewing your homeowner’s policy.” The short explanation has sent her on a long and difficult battle, trying to find alternative, affordable coverage that will make sure her assets are safe.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) are also dedicated to the fire protection of over 31 million acres of California’s privately owned forests. CAL FIRE and its Department’s Fire Prevention Program, is comprised of numerous different roles that include “pre-fire engineering, vegetation management, fire planning, education and law enforcement.”
“We will continue our work to make it safe and make it right, both by resolving claims stemming from past fires and through our work to make our system safer tomorrow than it is today,” PG&E said in a statement. ”We believe the settlement will assist in allowing all parties to move forward from the fire, and permit us to focus on compensating victims and making our energy system safer.”