BUTTE COUNTY — PG&E pleaded guilty Tuesday to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of unlawfully sparking the Camp Fire. The deadliest blaze in California’s history, the Camp Fire burned for 17 days in November 2018, scorching more than 150,000 acres, destroying of the town of Paradise and killing 85 people.
As part of Tuesday’s court proceeding, which took place in Butte County Superior Court, the utility agreed to pay a $3.5 million fine as part of the criminal plea and to reimburse the Butte County District Attorney’s Office $500,000 for the costs of its investigation into the blaze.
Among other provisions of Tuesday’s plea agreement, PG&E also must establish a trust, compensating victims of the Camp Fire and other wildfires sparked by its equipment more than $13 billion.
PG&E, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2019, also has to pay hundreds of millions to the town of Paradise and Butte County and cooperate with prosecutors’ ongoing investigation, the plea deal states.
As part of the settlement agreement, PG&E waived its right to appeal the case.
PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson stood in a near-empty courtroom in Chico Tuesday and for nearly half an hour repeated the word “guilty” 84 times to a judge reading out the charges.
“I have heard the pain and the anguish of victims as they’ve described the loss they continue to endure, and the wounds that can’t be healed,” Johnson said after the plea. “No words from me could ever reduce the magnitude of such devastation or do anything to repair the damage. But I hope that the actions we are taking here today will help bring some measure of peace.”
As part of a company-wide restructuring, Johnson will step down as PG&E’s CEO at the end of this month. The utility hopes to emerge from bankruptcy protection later this year.