PG&E facing $155 million fine over fatal 2020 Zogg Fire in Shasta County
SACRAMENTO — State regulators said Tuesday they plan to impose a $155.4 million fine against PG&E Corp. over the Zogg Fire, which killed four people in rural Shasta County two years ago.
In announcing the penalties against California’s largest utility, the California Public Utilities Commission said PG&E bears responsibility for a fire that started when a power line was struck by a gray pine tree with “significant obvious flaws that should have been apparent to anybody conducting a visual inspection.”
PG&E is already under criminal indictment in the fire, which began Sept. 27 near the town of Igo, west of Redding. The company has pleaded innocent to manslaughter and other charges. The fire burned 56,388 acres.
The state fine would be borne by PG&E shareholders, not ratepayers.
Already the utility faces potential liabilities totaling well over $1 billion from fires that ignited since the company’s stint in bankruptcy — which itself was prompted by a flurry of major fires that left PG&E with billions of dollars in damages. The company got out of bankruptcy in 2020 by promising to pay victims $13.5 billion for wildfire damages. The Zogg fire ignited about two months later.
While the company’s biggest financial headaches usually come from victims’ claims, PG&E has also been fined in the past by the utilities commission for its conduct. In 2020 it agreed to a $2 billion penalty over the wine country fires of 2017 and the 2018 Camp fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history.
The utilities commission said PG&E should be fined for violating vegetation management standards and failing to inspect a power pole in the vicinity of the ignition point.
PG&E, in a written statement, said it is reviewing the commission’s proposed fine and “we believe any potential financial penalties should be directed for the benefit of our customers, and to keeping our hometowns safe.”
The company noted that it has resolved civil claims filed by Shasta County officials, and has made settlements “with most individual victims and their families in an effort to make it right.”
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