The Camp Fire leveled homes in the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community late last year in Paradise, California. The state's largest utility, PG&E, may face billions in liability costs if its equipment is found to be responsible for igniting the fire. Photo: Noah Berger / AP

By Eric Westervelt
4 January 2019

(NPR) – Facing staggering liability costs for its potential culpability in a series of deadly wildfires, the parent company of California's largest utility is exploring whether to sell off a major part of the company, NPR has learned.

Internally, Pacific Gas & Electric has dubbed this strategy "Project Falcon." Under the plan, the company would sell its natural gas division this spring. After years of deadly errors and safety violations, the utility giant is looking for ways to cover liability costs and avoid bankruptcy, a senior company official and a former employee with knowledge of the plan tell NPR.

All net proceeds from the sale of PG&E's gas division would be used to set up a fund to pay billions of dollars in potential claims from wildfires, the sources said. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The company also is exploring selling key real estate assets, including its San Francisco headquarters, and moving its operations elsewhere in the Bay Area, the sources say.

On Friday, the company announced it would be "reviewing structural options" to best position the company to meet customer and operational needs. In addition, PG&E said it is searching for new directors for its board to "augment its existing expertise in safety." […]

In June, the state's fire agency, Cal Fire, determined that PG&E power equipment was responsible for sparking at least a dozen major fires across Northern California in 2017. And now, regulators are investigating whether PG&E equipment sparked November's Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive in state history.

The company could end up having to pay billions from legal action stemming from the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons. […]

Insurance companies Allstate, State Farm and USAA have filed lawsuits against PG&E, blaming the utility for the Camp Fire. […]

There is widespread anger in the state over PG&E's shoddy safety record. Protests broke out at recent public oversight meetings and at the company's San Francisco headquarters, where environmentalists and activists read the names of the more than 100 people combined who died in the Camp Fire and 2017's wildfires in Napa and Sonoma counties. At one customer service center, the company has installed bulletproof glass. [more]

Devastating Wildfires Force California's Largest Utility To Plan Sale Of Gas Assets

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