Biggest disaster ever? PG&E wildfire costs at $2.5 billion and climbing
Facing one of the largest financial disasters in its history, PG&E Corp. warned Thursday that claims from last fall's deadly wine country wildfires will probably exceed $2.5 billion.
The besieged utility, whose transmission lines and other equipment have already been blamed by state investigators for many of last October's fires, said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it will take a $2.5 billion charge against profits for the quarter that ends June 30. "This expected charge corresponds to the lower end of the range of PG&E Corporation and the utility's reasonably estimated losses, and is subject to change," the company said.
"At this point, we are unable to estimate the high end of the range," said PG&E chief financial officer Jason Wells in a conference call with investment analysts. Besides the state investigation, the utility has been sued more than 200 times in connection with the fires, which killed 44 people.
Notably, PG&E's estimate of its losses doesn't include any potential liability from the Tubbs Fire, the most destructive of last October's fires. The SEC filing said PG&E believes a financial loss from Tubbs isn't "probable." But when asked about it by analysts, Wells said PG&E omitted any estimates because "it's early to assess the cause of Tubbs."..
Current CEO Geisha Williams, asked Thursday about a bankruptcy filing, noted the utility is lobbying state legislators for relief from wildfire liability and alluded to PG&E's 2001 bankruptcy during the energy crisis. "Many of the lawmakers in California vividly remember the energy crisis...so the topic does come up in our conversations," she said.
PG&E has been trying to convince legislators to reduce its wildfire liability by changing a state policy known as "inverse condemnation." Under that doctrine, utilities can be forced to pay damages if the fire is caused by its equipment, even if investigators can't show the company was negligent. PG&E and other utilities are arguing that 2017's wildfires, which caused billions in damages in Northern and Southern California, were largely the result of climate change and other factors beyond their control...
http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/califo ... 80349.html