"I couldn't put the board of PG&E in jail" - Why was PG&E allowed to settle?

Recently, PG&E was allowed to settle two large wildfires it caused-- without admitting to criminal wrongdoing:

  • The 2021 Dixie Fire, which burned nearly a million acres in five counties-- including the whole town of Greenville, CA and roughly half of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
  • The 2019 Kincade Fire, which burned more than a hundred homes in Sonoma County-- sparked by a power line that was left on during widespread October blackouts.

An arrow points to part of a PG&E
power line suspected in the Kincade Fire.

PG&E had already been charged with 33 criminal counts in Kincade and was under criminal investigation in Dixie.

In this story, we press prosecutors on why they struck the deal when they felt they could prove the criminal charges in court: they told us two things:

1. They felt they could do more good for more people by settling.

2. As we've explained before, convicting PG&E of the crimes wouldn't have resulted in very stiff penalties.

The prosecutors want lawmakers to pass tougher penalties for corporate offenders, but the idea hasn't taken hold in a building where an 80% supermajority of elected leaders were willing to accept campaign money from PG&E, even after it became a convicted felon.

"I would like to [prosecutors] them have stronger tools," Meriel Wisotsky, daughter of Camp Fire manslaughter victim Ethel Colleen Riggs, says in our latest TV story.

But, she added: "It's no excuse for not using what they have."

📺Watch the ABC10 story:

DROP ME AN EMAIL: brittiman@abc10.com