California's main utility company has reached a settlement agreement for their involvement in the 2019 Kincade Fire. PG&E has agreed to pay $125 million to California regulators for the company's failed equipment that ignited the destructive fire that burned 122 square miles and destroyed 174 homes in rural Sonoma County. The blaze was also responsible for nearly 200 other destroyed structures and the evacuations of nearly two thirds of the county's population while the blaze was active.
Shareholders are to pay $40 million in fines to the general fund and another $85 million to remove abandoned equipment throughout the utilities' territory. This payout is part of the California Public Utilities Commission agreement that is to be officially approved at the December 2nd meeting. The outcome of this agreement came to be after the commission's Safety and Enforcement Division ruled that a transmission tower in the area was inactive but still energized with exposed jumper cables. The tower previously served the Calpine power plant and the tower remained energized for years following the closure of the plant. That tower was found to be the cause of the Kincade Fire after heavy wind events on October 23rd, 2019.
“PG&E left abandoned equipment energized for thirteen years even though that equipment provided no benefit or convenience to the public,” the enforcement division report said.
A spokesperson for PG&E is disputing several claims in the commission's investigation, saying the Calpine power plant was on "cold standby" meaning it was on standby and could be reactivated at a time of need. Also that Calpine continued to pay for monthly service charges and the spokesperson claims the area was still being inspected. In conclusion, the utility company agreed to pay the settlement even though disagreeing with several major claims in the commission's investigation.
PG&E is still battling several other lawsuits for a number of other large fires around the state of California.