PG&E charged with manslaughter in Zogg fire in California (2)
Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett On Friday, 31 charges were laid against the utility related to the Zogg fire in northern California, about 100 miles from the Oregon border. Eleven were felonies, including four counts of manslaughter. PG&E disputed the allegations.
“PG&E has a habit of causing forest fires repeatedly that don’t get better – it gets worse,” Bridgett said during an online media briefing. “Those who have lost loved ones need justice. They need those responsible for the murder of their loved ones to be held criminally responsible, especially since this fire was completely preventable.
The Shasta County criminal case is the latest blow to the utility, which came out of bankruptcy last year after its equipment was accused of starting some of the worst fires in the history of the California. If it turns out that PG&E was criminally negligent in starting a fire, the company will not be able to access public funds to help utilities pay for damage caused by fires caused by their power lines.
PG&E remains on criminal probation related to a fatal natural gas explosion in 2010.
The Zogg fire burned more than 56,000 acres (23,000 hectares) and destroyed 204 buildings.
PG&E accepted California investigators’ conclusion that a tree contacted one of its power lines and started the fire for Zogg, CEO of PG&E
“We put everything we have in
Bridgett also said Shasta County and four others have launched a joint investigation to determine possible criminal liability of PG&E for starting the Dixie Fire, which began in July and became the second largest wildfire in the California history.
“It’s time for them to change,” Bridgett said of PG&E, “and change doesn’t come by doing nothing. We cannot afford to do nothing.
PG&E shares fell 1.6% after the charges were announced.
Evidence suggests the Zogg fire was caused by a tree falling on the utility power line, according to the judge overseeing PG&E criminal probation and federal prosecutors.
Bridgett said PG&E contractors had marked the tree for removal as it was deemed unsafe, but it was never cut. Poppe said two skilled arborists independently determined that the tree in question could stay.
The company estimates total responsibility for the blaze at $ 375 million, according to a government filing in July. This figure could increase considerably with the costs of defending another criminal case.
(Updates with PG&E comment from second paragraph)
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