A federal bankruptcy court judge on Wednesday rejected Pacific Gas & Electric’s latest attempt to change a California law requiring utilities to pay for the devastation from wildfires ignited by their electrical equipment.

The decision issued by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali preserves a long-standing principle known as “inverse condemnation.”

The century-old law helped drive the nation’s largest utility into bankruptcy protection 10 months ago as it faced at least $20 billion in losses stemming from a series of deadly and destructive wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

The ruling is a victory for thousands of people who lost their homes and loved ones in the fires, as well as insurers trying to recover part of the roughly $16 billion they have already paid their policyholders.

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Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said Monday that it might preemptively cut power this week to much of Northern California — including parts of almost every Bay Area county — to prevent power lines from sparking wildfires during dry and windy weather.

The shut-off watch, covering 29 of the state’s 58 counties, and affecting more than 600,000 customers, is unprecedented in scope and could grow as forecasts come into focus. Customers in parts of the counties could lose power as soon as Wednesday morning, and the watch extends through Thursday.

Seven of the nine Bay Area counties — all but San Francisco and Marin — were advised of the potential outage, along with the North Coast, the northern parts of the Central Valley and the northern and central Sierra and foothills. The company cited a “potentially widespread, strong and dry wind event.”

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By Jaxon Van Derbeken

Published Sep 26, 2019

New photographic evidence indicates tree contact with two PG&E power lines – not the private hilltop electrical system state investigators have blamed – caused the devastating Tubbs fire, according to an expert with four decades of experience investigating electrical fires.

Until now, the second most destructive fire in state history stands as the only one of a two-year string of Northern California wildfires Cal Fire has not blamed on PG&E equipment. Cal Fire says in its report this year that the fire that started on October 8, 2017, was sparked somewhere along an unpermitted, substandard electrical system on a hilltop property along Bennett Lane in Calistoga.

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In a jolt to PG&E Corp., a group representing wildfire victims Thursday teamed with up a consortium of Wall Street hedge funds trying to execute a hostile takeover of the utility.

In a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the wildfire victims’ group aligned themselves with the hedge funds that hold billions of dollars in PG&E bonds.

The bondholder hedge funds said they would inject $28 billion into the troubled company. Of that, $24 billion would go into a “fire claims trust” to pay off all wildfire liabilities — including claims held by under-insured fire victims and insurance companies that have paid settlements to their policyholders.

The payouts would come in a 50-50 mix of cash and new PG&E stock, leaving the claims trust in control of about 40 percent of the company, according to a joint statement from the bondholders and victims. The hedge funds, in return for their investment, would have nearly 59 percent of the company’s stock, according to the court filing, effectively wresting control from existing shareholders.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS September 13, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas & Electric and a group of insurers announced Friday they reached an $11 billion settlement to cover most of the claims from wildfires in California in 2017 and 2018.

The utility said in a statement the tentative agreement covers 85% of the insurance claims from fires that included the one that decimated the town of Paradise and killed 86 people.

A group of insurers said in a separate statement the settlement is well below the $20 billion the insurance companies had sought in bankruptcy court.

“While this proposed settlement does not fully satisfy the approximately $20 billion in group members’ unsecured claims, we hope that this compromise will pave the way for a plan of reorganization that allows PG&E to fairly compensate all victims and emerge from Chapter 11 by the June 2020 legislative deadline,” the insurers said.

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SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The amount Pacific Gas and Electric must pay wildfire victims will be based on expert opinions on the average damages for wrongful death and property loss claims, along with prior PG&E settlements in similar disputes, a federal judge said in court Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge James Donato, who is overseeing wildfire liability estimation for PG&E’s bankruptcy case, said it would be impractical to analyze tens of thousands of wildfire claims on an individual basis.

“We’re clearly not doing individual claims,” Donato said. “That would take five years to get that done.”

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ASSOCIATED PRESS September 10, 2019, 6:55AM

SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E Corp. proposed Monday to resolve its bankruptcy case by offering nearly $18 billion to settle claims from devastating wildfires started by its equipment in recent years — an amount immediately criticized by victims who said less than half of that is intended for them.

The preliminary plan filed in federal court is part of its effort to exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by next year.

PG&E sought the protection in January because it said it could not afford billions in damages from wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that were caused by company equipment. That included the Camp fire in November — the deadliest blaze in California history — that killed 86 people and largely destroyed the Butte County town of Paradise.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS September 10, 2019, 7:33AM

PARADISE — Authorities have identified three more victims of a fire that virtually wiped out a Northern California town.

The Camp fire last November killed 86 people and destroyed 14,000 homes, most of them in the town of Paradise.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Office on Monday named three people whose remains were found after the blaze.

They are 68-year-old Isabel Webb, 79-year-old Herbert Alderman and 81-year-old Evelyn Cline, all of Paradise.

Cline’s nephew, Paul Henson, told the San Francisco Chronicle last year that her car had been found in the garage, with the roof of her mobile home collapsed on it. Henson said he’d hoped a neighbor had rescued her but knew it was unlikely.

The Sheriff’s Office says two victims remain unidentified.

The Federal Judge in PG&E’s Chapter 11 reorganization has ordered that formal claims must be filed by October 21, 2019. Any fire victim who does not have a claim filed by this date will NOT be able to recover from PG&E for fire losses. Failure to file on time permanently bars your rights against PG&E. We file claims for our clients and work to help maximize your claim value. 

Step one is we need you signed up as a client:(1) a signed fee agreement, (2) a one-page questionnaire, and (3) a photo id (drivers license) for each adult client. If you have a trust, minor kids, or businesses we will need a separate contract for each client. Step two we need to interview you to obtain information to complete the claim form so we can get it filed. To have a claim we need you to complete steps one and two.  We will not accept any new clients after October 14 so we have time to process the claims before the October 21, 2019, Court ordered final deadline.

Signs taped to the entrances of Guerneville’s fire station warn people that it’s risky to step inside — an unusual message for a building dedicated to public safety. It turns out this Russian River firehouse is among an aging group of unreinforced masonry structures in jeopardy of collapse in a major temblor.

“You may not be safe inside,” the sign reads, “during an earthquake.”

Which is precisely the time when those stationed in the building and their equipment would be needed to respond to rescues and aid calls in the event of a major quake, wildfire or flood in the area.

Just down the road, Monte Rio’s 1950s‑era fire station is in similar shape, as is Cazadero’s — all three don’t pass modern seismic standards that decades ago forced universities, hospitals and many other commercial and residential landlords to pursue costly upgrades for the sake of public safety.

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