Shares of embattled utility PG&E plummeted Monday after a judge ruled that a jury can decided whether the company should pay up to $18 billion in damages to wildfire victims.

The California supplier of gas and electricity fell to $10.05 — about 30% — on the week’s first day of trading before paring one-day losses to about 27%. The plunge represented its worst day on Wall Street since PG&E first announced plans to file for bankruptcy in January.

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SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A state court jury will decide if Pacific Gas and Electric should be held liable for the 2017 Tubbs Fire that killed 22 people and caused $6.2 billion in damage, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali granted a motion for relief from an automatic stay on litigation so Tubbs Fire victims can resolve their claims against PG&E in state court.

In January, CalFire determined that the Tubbs Fire was caused by a “private electrical system” in Calistoga and not by PG&E equipment, but a group of fire victims disputes those findings.

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Victims of lethal Wine Country fire in Sonoma County will get day in court against PG&E

PG&E must face in a state court — and potentially in front of a jury — victims of a lethal inferno that scorched portions of Sonoma County and Napa County in October 2017, a judge ruled on Friday as part of the utility’s bankruptcy case.

Judge Dennis Montali, who is supervising PG&E’s $51.69 billion federal bankruptcy filing, ruled that a state court is the correct venue to determine PG&E’s potential liability in connection with a deadly blaze known as the Tubbs Fire.

PG&E had wanted Montali to make an official determination, as part of the bankruptcy proceeding, of what PG&E’s potential liability should be in connection with the Tubbs wildfire.

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Victims of the deadly Tubbs Fire in 2017 won the right to pursue lawsuits against PG&E Corp. on Friday in spite of state investigators’ declaration that the utility wasn’t to blame for the fire.

Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali gave Tubbs victims’ lawyers the green light to take PG&E to court, arguing that the amount PG&E owes those victims must be resolved before the PG&E bankruptcy can be settled. PG&E has said it owes all wildfire victims about $30 billion.

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Victims of the second-most destructive fire in California history will get a chance to try and persuade a jury that PG&E Corp. should pay them as much as $18 billions in damages.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali on Friday lifted a freeze on lawsuits tied to the 2017 Tubbs fire, which killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,600 structures in Sonoma and Napa counties, opening the door for victims pursuing claims against PG&E to start preparing for a trial.

California fire investigators said days before PG&E filed for bankruptcy the utility didn’t cause the Tubbs fire, finding instead that it was sparked by a private electrical system outside a home near Calistoga.

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By Jaxon Van Derbeken NBC BAY AREA

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has obtained video evidence that experts say should prompt Cal Fire to reconsider the cause of the deadly 2017 Tubbs fire, which leveled Santa Rosa neighborhoods and killed 22 people.

It was the only major Wine Country wildfire that was not blamed on PG&E equipment.

In its final report, Cal Fire investigators identified the area around a hilltop home, owned by 91-year-old Ann Zink, as the origin of the Oct. 8 fire.

Cal Fire found the fire was caused by a substandard private electrical system spanning much of the 10.5 acre property.

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SAN FRANCISCO — A day after PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection from what could be multi-billion dollar wildfire liability costs, a federal judge Wednesday declared the beleaguered utility in violation of its probation for the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion and spent three hours excoriating the company for its role in the blazes that have ravaged Northern California over the past two years.

“Does a judge turn a blind eye and let PG&E continue what you’re doing, let you keep killing people?” U.S. District Judge William Alsup said inside the San Francisco courtroom. “Can’t we have electricity that is delivered safely in this state?”

The finding sets the stage for the judge to add additional and costly terms to Pacific Gas & Electric’s criminal probation for the deadly pipeline blast — requirements such as inspections and tree trimming the utility says could cost billions of dollars and lead to customer rates rising five-fold. Alsup, who is monitoring the utility’s federal probation, did not make that decision at Wednesday’s hearing but said he would soon, as fire season begins in June. He said he would pay close attention to what PG&E submits as its newly required wildfire mitigation plan. That plan is due next week as part of a new state law.

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Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the San Francisco-based utility that provides power to most of Northern California, announced Tuesday that it has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In an early morning statement, the company framed the move as a “reorganization” and promised to continue paying employees and providing service to millions of California homes:

As part of the filings, PG&E also filed various motions with the court in support of its reorganization, including requesting authorization to continue paying employee wages and providing healthcare and other benefits.

In the filings, PG&E also asked for authority to continue existing customer programs. […] PG&E expects the Court to act on these requests in the coming days. PG&E also intends to pay suppliers in full under normal terms for goods and services provided on or after the filing date of January 29, 2019.

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Campaign donations, talks with lawmakers raise credibility issues

By

IVAN PENN

NEW YORK TIMES

LOS ANGELES — As California’s deadliest wildfire was consuming the town of Paradise in November, some of the state’s top utility executives and a dozen legislators were at an annual retreat at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort on Maui. In the course of four days, they discussed wildfires — and how much responsibility the power companies deserve for the devastation, if any.

It is an issue of increasing urgency as more fires are traced to equipment owned by California’s investor-owned utilities. The largest, Pacific Gas and Electric, could ultimately have to pay homeowners and others an estimated $30 billion for causing fires over the past two years. The most devastating of those, the Camp fire, destroyed thousands of homes in Paradise and killed at least 86 people.

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