/California utility seeks bankruptcy protection following wildfires as CEO resigns, barricades put out front…

California utility seeks bankruptcy protection following wildfires as CEO resigns, barricades put out front…

As it faces potentially colossal liabilities over deadly California wildfires, embattled utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced Monday it will file for bankruptcy protection, a day after its CEO resigned.

PG&E said in a news release it’s given the required 15-day advance notice that it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company said the action will allow it to be able to gain access to capital and resources it needs to continue providing service to customers as it restructures.

To prevent wildfires, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. should re-inspect its entire electric grid and cut off power during certain wind conditions regardless of the inconvenience to customers or loss of profit, a U.S. judge proposed.

To prevent wildfires, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. should re-inspect its entire electric grid and cut off power during certain wind conditions regardless of the inconvenience to customers or loss of profit, a U.S. judge proposed.
(AP Photo/John Antczak, File)

“The company does not expect any impact to electric or natural gas service for its customers as a result of the Chapter 11 process,” the statement read. “PG&E remains committed to assisting the communities affected by wildfires in Northern California, and its restoration and rebuilding efforts will continue.”

CALIFORNIA UTILITY MAY HAVE TO TURN OFF POWER TO PREVENT WILDFIRES, RE-INSPECT ENTIRE GRID, JUDGE PROPOSES

The announcement on Monday followed the resignation of the power company’s chief executive, Geisha Williams, who had been had the helm for less than two years.

Gas and Electric said Sunday that CEO Geisha Williams was stepping down and that John Simon, the company's general counsel, would serve as interim CEO until a replacement is found.

Gas and Electric said Sunday that CEO Geisha Williams was stepping down and that John Simon, the company’s general counsel, would serve as interim CEO until a replacement is found.
(AP photo/Tony Avelar)

John Simon, who served as PG&E’s executive vice president and general counsel, will now be the utility’s interim CEO until the board finds a permanent replacement and said the utility’s “single most important responsibility” is safety.

“We believe a court-supervised process under Chapter 11 will best enable PG&E to resolve its potential liabilities in an orderly, fair and expeditious fashion,” Simon said in a statement. “We expect this process also will enable PG&E to access the capital and resources we need to continue providing our customers with safe service and investing in our systems and infrastructure.”

The utility set up barricades at its headquarters in San Francisco before additional details were set to be revealed to employees. A spokesperson told KGO-TV the barricades were to help employees get to where they need to be, given the interest of the “major announcement.”

POWER EQUIPMENT NEAR START OF CAMP FIRE IN CALIFORNIA HAD DAMAGE, UTILITY REVEALS

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement to KTVU the company should continue to “honor promises made to energy suppliers and to our community.”

“I will be working with the Legislature and all stakeholders on a solution that ensures consumers have access to safe, affordable and reliable service, fire victims are treated fairly, and California can continue to make progress toward our climate goals,” he said.

The bankruptcy filing and management changes come as the utility faces $15 billion in damages and cleanup costs and numerous related lawsuits for the 2017 blazes and could face billions more in damages if investigators determine its equipment started the state’s most destructive fire in 2018.

PG&E reported an equipment malfunction at the time and location where the Camp Fire started on Nov. 8. That blaze killed at least 86 people, destroyed 14,000 homes and leveled Paradise, a city of 27,000 residents.

Pacific Gas and Electric said last month it determined weather conditions were no longer dangerous enough to warrant a massive power shut off on Nov. 8 - a decision that came as a massive fire was tearing through a Northern California town.

Pacific Gas and Electric said last month it determined weather conditions were no longer dangerous enough to warrant a massive power shut off on Nov. 8 – a decision that came as a massive fire was tearing through a Northern California town.
(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Fire officials have not yet officially said what caused the blaze, but have focused on power equipment.

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Last week, a federal judge said in a court order that the utility may be ordered to inspect its electric grid and turn off power during windy conditions to prevent wildfires this year.

Fire season in California runs from June 21 to the first region-wide rainstorm in November or December.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.