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Utility to Pay $11B Over California Fires

Individuals are the only group without a deal
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2019 5:00 PM CDT
A California wildfire burns in December 2017. PG&E has announced a settlement in the fires Friday.   (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP, File)

(Newser) – Pacific Gas & Electric has settled for $11 billion with insurance companies over claims involving California wildfires in 2017 and 2018. The deal could help the giant utility get out of bankruptcy, the Wall Street Journal reports. PG&E, facing $30 billion in liability after fatal fires sparked by its faulty equipment, filed for bankruptcy protection this year. The settlement announced Friday requires the approval of bankruptcy court. The money will go to insurers and hedge funds for coverage payments to homeowners and businesses. Thousands of uninsured and underinsured victims who have filed individual claims are not included, per the AP. Some of those cases are wrongful death suits.

The utility is still negotiating with individuals. "Now we just have to get a fair amount for" them, said a lawyer who represents more than 5,000 people lost their homes to the fires. PG&E agreed to pay $1 billion to local governments and state agencies in June, in a deal that brought support for its bankruptcy plan. The utility's chief executive called the $11 billion deal "another step in doing what's right for the communities, businesses, and individuals" hurt by the wildfires, per NPR. Representatives of victims disagreed, saying it looks like the utility is trying to separate the human victims from the companies. "PG&E is taking money out of the pockets of people whose homes and businesses it burned down and handing the money to insurance companies to buy their cooperation," one said. (Read more California wildfires stories.)

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