The sun glows through smoky skies behind high-tension electricity towers in Butte County, Calif., on November 17. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Pacific Gas & Electric, which is being investigated for its role in a wildfire that killed dozens in California last year, announced Tuesday it's filed for bankruptcy.
The largest utility in the United States said it will request to continue paying workers and maintain customer programs in the bankruptcy process, which could take years.
"We did not make this decision lightly, as we understand that millions of our customers rely on us and will have questions," PG&E CEO John R. Simon said in a statement.
"We want to make sure you understand what this means for you, what you can expect going forward, and what we are doing to continue to safely serve you and your energy needs."
In a Jan. 13 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, PG&E said bankruptcy will allow it to service customers, resolve past wildfire liabilities, continue restoration efforts, support ongoing operations and take safety measures to mitigate future fire risk.
Because the utility giant is a regulated monopoly that provides an essential public service, the California Public Utilities Commission will have to sign off on any reorganization plan that's connected to rate increases, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
The bankruptcy could increase past calls from PG&E critics to break up the conglomerate.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said last month PG&E could face murder, manslaughter or other criminal charges if it's found responsible for any of the state's deadly wildfires in recent years.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is investigating what role the utility may have played in last year's Camp Fire, which became the deadliest in state history, killing 86 people.
A federal judge is overseeing PG&E's probation involving a gas line explosion in 2010 that killed eight.
Simon promised PG&E will help communities affected by the Northern California fires through extensive restoration and rebuilding.
"Through this process, we will prioritize what matters most to our customers and the communities we serve -- safety and reliability," Simon said. "We believe that this process will make sure that we have sufficient liquidity to serve our customers and support our operations and obligation."