Feb 2, 2023
PG&E Ordered to Stand Trial for Deadly 2020 California Wildfire
(Bloomberg) -- PG&E Corp., which was driven into bankruptcy four years ago for causing a string of deadly wildfires, has been ordered by a California state judge to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter and other charges tied to the Zogg wildfire in 2020.
The judge found that prosecutors presented sufficient evidence during a seven-day preliminary hearing to take California’s biggest utility to trial over the blaze, which burned more than 200 structures and over 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Shasta and Tehama counties, according to a spokesperson for the Shasta County District Attorney.
PG&E accepts a determination from state fire investigators that a tree falling into the utility’s power line caused the 2020 file, the Oakland, California-based company said Thursday in an emailed statement.
“However, we believe PG&E did not commit any crimes,” PG&E said. “We believe the conduct of our coworkers and contractors reflects good judgment by qualified individuals and we will continue to defend against these charges as the proceeding unfolds.”
Preventing wildfires and resolving civil and criminal liability from utility-caused blazes has weighed on PG&E for years. Fires sparked by power lines and transformers that destroyed more than a million acres and killed scores of people sent the company into bankruptcy in 2019. PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for its role in starting the Camp Fire in 2018, the deadliest blaze in state history.
PG&E faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of recklessly starting a fire for the Zogg blaze, the Shasta County District Attorney spokesperson said. The utility pleaded not guilty to the charges. PG&E is scheduled to appear at a court hearing on Feb. 15, when a judge may set a trial date.
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