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PG&E could face murder charges for role in California wildfires

By Daniel Uria
Burned out cars cover a lot in the ruins of Paradise, California on November 17. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Pacific Gas & Electric Co. could facemurder, manslaughter or lesser criminal charges if investigators find it responsible for any of the deadly wildfires in the state during the past two years. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
Burned out cars cover a lot in the ruins of Paradise, California on November 17. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Pacific Gas & Electric Co. could facemurder, manslaughter or lesser criminal charges if investigators find it responsible for any of the deadly wildfires in the state during the past two years. File photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- California's largest utility could face murder, manslaughter or lesser criminal charges if investigators find it responsible for any of the deadly wildfires in the state during the past two years.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra outlined various scenarios in which Pacific Gas & Electric Co., or PG&E, could face criminal charges in the Camp Fire or other deadly wildfires since 2017, the Sacramento Bee reported.

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Bercerra's office said prosecutors would have to gauge G&E's "mental state" before determining what charges, if any, to bring against the utility.

Cal Fire has determined that PG&E likely broke state law in connection with 12 of the 2017 fires and is investigating any possible role the utility played in the Camp Fire, which became the deadliest fire in the state's history, killing 86 people in all.

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Bercerra's brief is solely advisory and any possible criminal charges would likely come from county district attorneys.

The brief was filed after U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup requested that officials determine what crimes PG&E may have committed if it was found responsible for the fires. The federal judge is overseeing PG&E's probation involving the 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion.

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The attorney general's office said it hasn't come to a conclusion about PG&E's responsibility and isn't taking a position on the issue.

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In response to the brief, PG&E said it is making an effort to reduce the risk of wildfires related to its operation.

"PG&E's most important responsibility is public and workforce safety. Our focus continues to be on assessing our infrastructure to further enhance safety and helping our customers continue to recover and rebuild. Throughout our service area, we are committed to doing everything we can to help further reduce the risk of wildfire," the utility said.

PG&E has faced penalties for failing to meet regulatory standards in previous incidents and is currently under probation for its role in a pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people and injured more than 50 others..

RELATED California utility: Electric lines damaged where the Camp Fire started

It was also sentenced to another five years of probation and fined $3 million last year after being found guilty of multiple violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.

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