The following is a press release issued by the Sonoma County District Attorney:
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced today that Pacific Gas & Electric Company (“PG&E”) has made the first of five annual payments to several local nonprofit organizations serving members of the community impacted by wildfires. The payments were mandated by the stipulated judgment that resolved criminal and civil charges against PG&E related to causing the 2019 Kincade Fire. The nonprofit recipients of the funds were:
- Fire Safe Sonoma, which is charged with implementation of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) to mitigate threat of wildfires through education, prevention, and outreach, including funding of neighborhood wildfire prevention and preparedness programs, received the first of five $200,000 annual payments.
- Conservation Corps North Bay, which provides wraparound services to young adults that include career-coaching and job-training in industries such as vegetation management, received the first of five $200,000 annual payments.
- Nuestra Communidad, a nonprofit focused on disaster preparedness for underserved communities, including elderly and monolingual Spanish speakers, received the first of five $100,000 annual payments.
- Council on Aging, which provides food security to thousands of seniors through its Meals on Wheels program and assists with notification of emergencies as well as updates and assistance, received the first of five $100,000 annual payments.
- Interfaith Shelter Network, which provides emergency basic needs assistance including housing for under and uninsured, received the first of five $100,000 annual payments.
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma-Marin, which runs programs that provide life-skills and workforce development for youth in the Roseland area, received the first of five $100,000 annual payments.
- Jameson Humane, an organization that supports large and small animal rescue preparation, response, and reunification during wildfires, received the first of five $100,000 annual payments to support Sonoma County efforts.
- Each of the following local health clinics that were impacted by the Kincade Fire from the five districts in Sonoma County received the first of five $60,000 annual payments in recognition of the heightened health risks associated with wildfires due to dangerous levels of emitted air contaminants:
- Petaluma Health Center
- Jewish Community Free Clinic
- Sonoma Valley Community Health Center
- West County Health Centers
- Alexander Valley Health Care
District Attorney Ravitch said, “The stipulated settlement, in this case, represented the best outcome for the people of this county. It provides a significant financial punishment, coupled with oversight. In addition, a large portion of the funds are going to local nonprofits providing services to those in our community affected by wildfires. The judgment also prohibits PG&E from passing the costs on to consumers through rate increases.”
The judgment, which was approved by the Honorable Patrick Broderick on April 8, 2022, also ordered PG&E to implement numerous wildfire safety measures in Sonoma County. PG&E’s compliance with these safety measures is being reviewed and monitored by a team of independent experts in the energy field for the next five years. The judgment further ordered PG&E to hire at least 80 new wildfire safety related positions in Sonoma County. Finally, PG&E was ordered to pay a total of $20,250,000. In addition to the payments to local nonprofits discussed above, PG&E paid the following:
- The first of five annual payments totaling $5,000,000 to Santa Rosa Junior College to expand and enhance the school’s Fire Technology Program at the Public Safety Training Center, and $500,000 to create a Vegetation Management program to train students for future careers related to wildfire resilience.
- The first of five annual payments totaling $7,500,000 in civil penalties as punishment and deterrence for recklessly and negligently causing the Kincade Fire.
- $750,000 to reimburse the District Attorney’s Office for the costs of investigating and prosecuting the matter was paid in June.
All payments mandated by this Judgment will not be charged to PG&E customers nor may they be recovered in rate increases.
On October 23, 2019, at approximately 9:20 p.m., the Kincade Fire ignited under a PG&E transmission tower located in the Geysers, a geothermal field in northern Sonoma County. The fire burned for 15 days, destroying more than 77,000 acres and hundreds of homes and structures. The fire also prompted the largest evacuation in Sonoma County history of almost 200,000 residents. At least six firefighters were seriously injured fighting the fire. Additionally, the fire emitted harmful smoke, injuring at least five identified victims, and subjecting many more to increased risk of serious health problems.