16:46 GMT08 April 2020
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    The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), a California utility firm, has agreed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for its role in the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history, caused by a faulty PG&E power line.

    Under the indictment filed in Butte County, where the fire originated, the company has been charged with 84 counts of manslaughter and one count of unlawfully causing a fire. PG&E will pay a $3.48 million penalty for being responsible for the equipment that ignited the fire in the towns of Paradise, Magalia and Concow that resulted in the deaths of 85 people. 

    “Our equipment started the fire,” said PG&E CEO and President Bill Johnson in a Monday statement. “Those are the facts, and with this plea agreement we accept responsibility for our role in the fire.”

    “We cannot change the devastation or ever forget the loss of life that occurred,” he continued. “All of us at PG&E deeply regret this tragedy and the company’s part in it …  We cannot replace all that the fire destroyed, but our hope is that this plea agreement, along with our rebuilding efforts, will help the community move forward from this tragic incident.”

    According to the plea deal, PG&E agreed to pay the statutory maximum of $3.48 million, apart from which “no other or additional sentence will be imposed on the utility in the criminal action in connection with the 2018 Camp Fire.” In addition, PG&E must pay the Butte County District Attorney’s Office $500,000 to cover the investigation’s cost. The company must also set up a trust to provide around $13.5 billion in compensation to victims of the Camp Fire and other wildfires dating back to 2015, the New York Times reported. 

    In a statement Monday, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said he hopes the plea agreement will bring “a bit of a sense of justice done.” The plea agreement is scheduled to be approved by a state court court on April 24.

    In January 2019, PG&E filed for bankruptcy due to its role in starting multiple wildfires in California in 2017 and 2018 that killed more than 100 people and destroyed around 15,700 homes.


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