PG&E Bankruptcy Threatens California Wildfire Suits, Green-Power Contracts

PG&E Corp.’s plan to file for bankruptcy protection has enormous repercussions for everyone from the homeowners suing the utility for California wildfire damages to the companies that furnish it with green energy.

California’s largest utility said Monday it was preparing to file for Chapter 11 protection before the end of the month as it faces more than $30 billion in potential liability costs related to its role in sparking wildfires in recent years. Electricity and natural gas would continue to flow to homes and businesses, PG&E said.

But a bankruptcy process would complicate attempts to recover wildfire damages and likely affect the state’s plans to reduce carbon emissions, according to lawyers, legislators and energy and bankruptcy experts.

. . . Meanwhile some of the long-term contracts PG&E struck to buy electricity from wholesale power providers could be dissolved in a bankruptcy. Many of the contracts to buy power from wind and solar farms are well above current market rates because PG&E was among the first utilities to buy large quantities of green power, when it was far more costly than it is today.

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