Pacific Gas and Electric reached an agreement Monday with six Northern California Counties to avoid criminal charges for the company’s role in igniting two very large destructive wildfires, the 2021 Dixie Fire and the 2019 Kincade Fire. The settlement means the district attorneys in the six counties will not pursue criminal charges against the company, or if they have already been filed, will be dismissed.
The Dixie Fire burned on the Plumas National Forest, Lassen National Forest, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and across five counties: Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama. The Kincade Fire was in Sonoma County.
The agreements with the counties does not prevent the US Attorney from filing criminal charges for the Dixie Fire. Nor does it prevent civil litigation from property owners. The Sacramento Bee reported that PG&E said it expects liabilities from the Kincade Fire to reach $800 million and the Dixie Fire to be $1.15 billion.
The Dixie and Kincade Fires, caused by PG&E power lines, burned 963,000 and 77,758 acres respectively.
In the settlement PG&E agreed to pay $55 million over a five year period. About $35 million will go to local organizations, volunteer fire departments, local schools, Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce, fire safe councils, and other non-profits. The company will pay a $7.5 million civil penalty to Sonoma County related to the Kincade Fire and a $1 million civil penalty to each of the five North Valley counties related to the Dixie Fire. PG&E said they will not seek recovery of these costs from customers.
Details of some of the payments, according to PG&E, include:
- Local Safety Workforce: Adding 80-100 new PG&E jobs based in Sonoma County, as well as 80-100 more positions collectively across Butte, Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama counties. These new positions will increase PG&E’s local expertise and presence focused on completing critical safety work in these communities.
- Local Inspection and Work Commitments: Executing specific safety work and inspections in the six counties including commitments to carry out vegetation management and equipment inspections, which will be reviewed and verified by the independent monitor.
Local Community College Partnerships
- Fire Technology Training Program: Committing to work collaboratively with Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) on efforts to expand and enhance the College’s Fire Technology Program of the Public Safety Training Center, including providing funding and sharing PG&E wildfire safety know-how and learnings. The company also will provide funding to campuses in the six counties which, at the discretion of the colleges, can be used for site acquisition and development, equipment purchases, and developing and implementing fire technology program curriculum.
- Vegetation Management Training Program: Providing funding and assisting in the creation of new utility vegetation management training programs at SRJC and several campuses across the North Valley. These programs will be modeled after coursework that debuted at Butte College in 2020.
Direct Payment Program to Accelerate Community Recovery
- PG&E will launch a new Direct Payments for Community Recovery program with an online tool where individuals whose homes were destroyed by the Dixie Fire can submit claims for expedited review, approval and payment. PG&E will verify the claims and make offers based on an objective, predetermined calculation. Claimants who accept the offers will receive payment, typically within 30 days of accepting an offer and within 75 days of first submitting a complete claim. PG&E has also agreed to provide in-person and telephone customer support centers to navigate this new program.