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14 January 2019, 07:10 | Austin Hogan
US wildfires push energy firm PG&E to bankruptcy protection
PG&E Corp, the biggest USA power utility, said on Monday it is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for all of its businesses as it faces potentially crushing liabilities linked to catastrophic wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
By filing for bankruptcy, the company will be able to work with "wildfire victims, customers, employees, creditors, shareholders, the financial community and business partners", in one court-supervised process, it said.
California utility company Pacific Gas & Electric on Monday morning that it will move forward in filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The company, which has 20,000 employees, has assured its customers it expects to continue supplying power "without disruption".
PG&E said in a letter to pensioners that it doesn't expect any changes to its tax-qualified pension plans, or to its life and health-insurance benefits.
PG&E faces widespread litigation, government investigations and liabilities that could potentially reach $30 billion, according to the company, accounting for damage from fires a year ago and in 2017. On Sunday, the company started searching for a new leader after Geisha Williams, 57, quit as CEO.
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That would dwarf the US$1.5 billion in cash and cash equivalents on hand as of Friday.
Williams had been CEO since 2017.
"It is clear that a solution is needed that enables the continued safe delivery of natural gas and electric service to our customers and supports the orderly, fair and expeditious resolution of PG&E's potential liabilities resulting from the recent wildfires".
The PG&E board of directors is pushing Williams out as CEO over fallout from the company's liability in sparking deadly wildfires across California.
Board Chairman Richard Kelly said "a Chapter 11 reorganization for both the utility and PG&E Corporation represents the only viable option to address the company's responsibilities to its stakeholders". PG&E kept the lights on during the three years it spent in Chapter 11 between 2001 and 2004, when it was clobbered by rising power costs during the energy crisis. Her departure follows the exit of three PG&E executives earlier this month - Patrick Hogan, senior vice president of electric operations at PG&E's utility unit; Kevin Dasso, vice president of electric asset management; and Gregg Lemler, vice president of electric transmission. It is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire to have occurred in the state.
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