Erin Brockovich, the activist whose crusade against PG&E spawned a hit movie, will appear with wildfire survivors at the Capitol in Sacramento to protest the utility’s plans to file for bankruptcy.
The rally is set for noon Tuesday on the south steps of the Capitol, according to an announcement Friday by a consortium of law firms suing PG&E on behalf of wildfire survivors.
PG&E announced it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the end of January because it doesn’t have the money to pay an estimated $30 billion in potential liabilities from the 2017 wine country fires and last November’s Camp Fire. The blaze destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 86 people, making it the deadliest fire in California history.
Bankruptcy would turn wildfire claimants into unsecured creditors, along with bondholders holding billions in PG&E debt. It’s unlikely that the fire survivors would get paid in full, legal experts say.
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Noreen Evans, a Santa Rosa lawyer working with Brockovich, noted that the Legislature approved a partial bailout plan last year that could force ratepayers to absorb at least some of the costs of the 2017 fires. But the law, SB 901, says nothing about the 2018 fires, leaving Camp Fire victims potentially holding the bag as the utility’s finances deteriorate.
Evans, a partner in the firm of O’Brien Watters & Davis, said lawmakers must “treat all of the victims fairly. If they’re doing it for one fire, they have to do it for all fires.”
Brockovich made her reputation fighting Pacific Gas and Electric Co. over the presence of the toxic chemical hexavalent chromium in the community of Hinkley’s water supply in San Bernardino County. Julia Roberts won an Oscar portraying her in the 2000 movie “Erin Brockovich.” Since then Brockovich has maintained her high profile as an environmental activist.