Fire Victims Fight for Slice of Pie in $13.5 Billion PG&E Wildfire Settlement 

January 2, 2020
Wildfire California
Flames and Smoke with Burning Landscape during Woolsey Fire By Erin - Adobe Stock

Splitting the bill with friends at a restaurant can be hard enough—imagine having to decide how to allocate $13.5 billion to government agencies, fire victims, and insurance companies. After sparking deadly wildfires that destroyed homes and took lives, Pacific Gas & Electric is facing bankruptcy as it tries to sort out how to distribute the multi-billion-dollar settlement. Bottom line: No party is satisfied with how the settlement is shaping up, as government bodies try to recuperate the billions they spent fighting the fires and fire victims fight to regain even a fraction of what they have lost. 

SAN FRANCISCO — A financial tug-of-war is emerging over the $13.5 billion that the nation's largest utility has agreed to pay to victims of recent California wildfires, as government agencies jockey for more than half the money to cover the costs of their response to the catastrophes.

Pacific Gas & Electric declared bankruptcy nearly a year ago as it faced about $36 billion in claims from people who lost family members, homes and businesses in devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018. The utility acknowledged its power lines ignited some of the fires.

Those claims were settled as part of the $13.5 billion deal that PG&E reached last month with lawyers representing uninsured and underinsured victims.

Meanwhile, insurers had been threatening to try to recover roughly $20 billion in policyholder claims that they believe they will end up paying for losses from those fires. PG&E settled with the insurers for $11 billion.

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