PG&E fined $4M for causing Camp Fire, killing 84

6 months ago 42
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June 18 (UPI) -- A California judge ordered Pacific Gas and Electric to pay $4 million Thursday after the utility company pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for starting the 2018 Camp Fire.

In addition to the $3.5 million plea agreement, Butte County Superior Judge Michael Deems ordered PG&E to pay $500,000 to reimburse the county for the cost of its investigation into the cause of the wildfire.

"If these crimes were attributed to an actual human person rather than a corporation, the anticipated sentence based on the applicable statutes to which the defendant has pleaded guilty would be 90 years to be served in state prison," Deems said.

"Nevertheless, the court's sentencing options are limited. As a corporation, PG&E cannot be sentenced to prison. The only punishment that the court is authorized to impose in this situation is a fine."

The Camp Fire broke out Nov. 8, 2018, and over 17 days became the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's history. The blaze killed 85 people and charred more than 150,000 acres. It destroyed some 18,000 structures and all but eliminated the town of Paradise.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection determined a malfunction in PG&E's power lines sparked the fire. The company pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday -- one fewer than the death toll because one death couldn't definitively be linked to the fire.

In addition to the $4 million fine levied Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered PG&E to pay $2 billion for negligence causing multiple fires in 2017 and 2018.

The court also heard victim-impact statements from survivors of those killed in the Camp Fire.

Philip Binstock said his father, Julian Binstock, was among those who died.

"You had the capacity to know what you were doing would kill people," Binstock said in a statement addressed to PG&E in court. "You knew what you were doing was wrong. And rather than reduce your bonuses, you allowed your failed equipment and your improper inspections to kill people.

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