Pacific Gas & Electric is expected to plead guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter during a court hearing in which the nation’s largest utility will be confronted with its history of neglect and greed that culminated in a wildfire that wiped out most of a Northern California town.
The Tuesday hearing before Butte County Superior Court Judge Michael Deems comes nearly three months after PG&E reached a plea agreement in the November 2018 Camp Fire that was ignited by its rickety electrical grid that destroyed Paradise, about 170 miles (275 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco. The fire killed 85 people, but prosecutors weren’t certain they could prove PG&E was responsible for one of the deaths.
The spectacle will unfold as PG&E approaches the end of a complicated bankruptcy case that the company used to work out $25.5 billion in settlements to pay for the damages from the Camp Fire and others that torched wide swaths of Northern California and killed dozens of others in 2017. The bankruptcy deals include $13.5 billion earmarked for wildfire victims. A federal judge plans to approve or reject PG&E’s plan for getting out of bankruptcy by June 30.