Pacific Gas and Electric, one of the nation’s giants and California’s largest utility, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, January 26. Serving over 16 million people, the utility would continue to operate but must file a reorganization plan and repay debts to creditors over time.
At this point, PG&E is being held responsible for 17 out of 21 major fires in California in 2017 and 2018, to the tune of $30 billion dollars. Out of the 17 fires, 11 are cited to be caused by improperly managed powerlines, lack of maintaining equipment and by not removing vegetation and tree branches in close proximity to the fixtures. The exact cause of the deadliest fire in California state history, the 2018 Camp Fire, is still under investigation while the town of Paradise, Calif. barely remains and over 86 people lost their lives.
The effects of these fires not only impact families of those who lost their homes and loved ones, but also the commitment to legislation signed by former Governor Jerry Brown mandating the state run on 100 percent clean energy by 2045. PG&E filing for bankruptcy protection could jeopardize the goal of 100 percent clean energy as businesses that supply clean energy to the utility grid would then suffer from re-negotiated or lost contracts with the utility company, thus delaying the state’s commitment. The case will likely be dragged out over an extended period of time, as PG&E says that bankruptcy is the only option. Investors, elected officials and local groups are seeking options to avoid the declaration to protect tax paying citizens and those who do business with or have invested in the utility.