Bill Johnson, the CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric, known as the nation’s largest utility company, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and admitted that they killed 84 people by putting profits ahead of safety.
Utility Exec pleads guilty to manslaughter
The man in charge of utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric, Bill Johnson, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of 84 California residents in November of 2018. The Camp Fire which destroyed the towns of Concow and Paradise, California is recorded as the most destructive wildfire in California history. It was caused by equipment that PG&E was too stingy to maintain.
After officially entering his guilty plea, at the Butte County courthouse, Johnson promised the company “will never again put profits ahead of safety.” He’s expected to be sentenced by Michael Deems of the Superior Court by the end of this week but, according to Associated Press, “no one will be imprisoned for the company’s crimes.”
Pacific Gas and Electric separately consented to pay the maximum fine, which is $3.5 million and also pay for the cost of the investigation. The bill for that works out to around $500,000.
The utility is in bankruptcy
Following the deadly fires, PG&E knew they were guilty and planned on facing some huge liability. They filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on January 29, 2019. They expected at the time to be able to pull the company back out of the red in about two years.
The utility did a major reorganization with a fresh CEO and a whole new management team but liberal Governor Gavin Newsom wasn’t convinced that the new board members would know how to “run a utility safely.” They couldn’t do much worse than the previous team.
PG&E has a long history of being guilty for setting fires and causing other disasters. In general they have been lax about trimming the undergrowth and repairing equipment. For instance, the Paradise fire prompting the CEO’s guilty plea started from a transformer in a section of line that was put in at the turn of the 1900’s.