PG&E skirts criminal charges, reaches settlement in Zogg wildfire

OAKLAND — PG&E has skirted criminal charges arising from the lethal Zogg Fire of 2020 in Shasta County and Tehama County after legal maneuvers that include the utility’s agreement to a civil lawsuit settlement Wednesday.

The Shasta County District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop all remaining criminal charges in the fatal fire, which killed four people and torched 204 buildings, a blaze that also essentially destroyed the communities of Igo and Ono in that area.

“We stand behind our thousands of trained and experienced coworkers and contractors working every day to keep Californians safe,” Patricia Poppe, PG&E’s chief executive officer, said in a prepared release. “We feel strongly that those good-faith judgments are not criminal.”

State fire investigators determined that the blaze, which erupted in September 2020, was caused by a pine tree falling into PG&E power lines. The inferno eventually consumed about 56,300 acres.

Under the deal with prosecutors, now that the criminal charges have been dropped, Shasta County filed civil charges against PG&E.

As part of the deal, PG&E agreed to settle the just-filed civil lawsuit for $50 million. The settlement amount includes $45 million PG&E will pay to local organizations and a $5 million civil penalty the utility paid to Shasta County authorities.

“Most of the $45 million that PG&E will pay as part of the settlement will go to local fire departments and districts, law enforcement, and community and nonprofit organizations to rebuild and strengthen the communities affected by the Zogg Fire and to honor the victims,” PG&E stated on Wednesday.

Oakland-based PG&E committed to several ongoing actions to curb wildfire risks in Shasta County, the utility stated.

The power company said it would:

  • implement new systems for vegetation management work within high fire-risk areas of Shasta County.
  • Install line sensor devices that improve the ability to locate faults on circuits
  • complete an aerial Lidar (laser-assisted radar) survey
  • install new weather stations
  • add artificial intelligence-based technology to existing wildfire cameras
  • meet every three months with the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office to discuss ongoing wildfire safety measures in the jurisdiction

Separately, an independent monitor will report to the district attorney about PG&E’s progress.

Shasta County Superior Court Judge Daniel Flynn, in a ruling to explain his decision to drop the criminal charges, noted that evidence did not exist to suggest that PG&E was negligent in its inspections of the tree prior to the Zogg Fire outbreak.

Source link