PG&E, SoCal Edison see shares plummet amid California wildfires

Two California power companies’ stocks have plummeted amid the possibility that they could be found liable for California’s deadly wildfires.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) saw its shares drop 48 percent in the two days of trading since the horrific Camp Fire first began on Thursday.

Camp Fire is now the deadliest blaze in California’s history, killing 42 people and destroying more than 7,000 structures. 

As the fire continued to burn on Monday, trading was briefly suspended as PG&E became the worst-performing stock on the S&P 500 index.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) saw its shares drop 48 percent in the two days of trading since the horrific Camp Fire first began on Thursday

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) saw its shares drop 48 percent in the two days of trading since the horrific Camp Fire first began on Thursday

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) saw its shares drop 48 percent in the two days of trading since the horrific Camp Fire first began on Thursday

Its stocks plummeted as Betsy Ann Cowley (pictured) revealed the company had emailed her the day before the Camp Fire began and said it needed to investigate power lines that were causing sparks on her land

Its stocks plummeted as Betsy Ann Cowley (pictured) revealed the company had emailed her the day before the Camp Fire began and said it needed to investigate power lines that were causing sparks on her land

Its stocks plummeted as Betsy Ann Cowley (pictured) revealed the company had emailed her the day before the Camp Fire began and said it needed to investigate power lines that were causing sparks on her land

The company’s shares closed at $32.98, down by 17.4 percent, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

‘We’re not going to speculate or comment on what factors may or may not be impacting the market,’ said PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty. 

‘Right now, our entire company is focused on supporting first responders and assisting our customers and communities impacted by the Camp Fire.’ 

The company could face nearly $5billion in liabilities for the fire if it’s found responsible, according to Susquehanna Financial Group. 

PG&E’s stocks plummeted as Betsy Ann Cowley revealed that the company had emailed her the day before the Camp Fire began and said it needed to investigate power lines that were causing sparks on her land. 

Cowley, 31, lives on 64 acres in Pulga, California. Her property is right next to a junction with Camp Creek Road, where the fire first sparked around 6.30am on Thursday.

Cowley, 31, lives on 64 acres in Pulga, California. Her property is right next to a junction with Camp Creek Road, where the fire first sparked around 6.30am on Thursday 

Cowley, 31, lives on 64 acres in Pulga, California. Her property is right next to a junction with Camp Creek Road, where the fire first sparked around 6.30am on Thursday 

Cowley, 31, lives on 64 acres in Pulga, California. Her property is right next to a junction with Camp Creek Road, where the fire first sparked around 6.30am on Thursday 

‘They told me they were coming through because of problems with the line,’ she said. 

The email said the company was sending employees to work on the high-power lines because ‘they were having problems with sparks’. 

Cowley, who was on vacation at the time, said PG&E visited her home on Wednesday. She does not know what the conclusion of their visit was.

It was also revealed that, two days before the fire started, PG&E told customers in nine counties that it might shut off their power on November 8 because of extreme fire danger.

One of the counties included was Butte County, where Paradise – the town completely wiped out by the Camp Fire – was located. 

The utility company ultimately decided to call off the shutdown, telling customers nine hours after the Camp Fire began that the weather conditions ‘did not warrant this safety measure’.

Southern California Edison also saw its shares drop after reporting that there was an outage on an electric circuit right by the area where the Woolsey Fire first began in Los Angeles 

Southern California Edison also saw its shares drop after reporting that there was an outage on an electric circuit right by the area where the Woolsey Fire first began in Los Angeles 

Southern California Edison also saw its shares drop after reporting that there was an outage on an electric circuit right by the area where the Woolsey Fire first began in Los Angeles 

The Woolsey fire has since killed two people and burned through 96,314 acres in Los Angeles, including a number of celebrities' homes in Malibu. Pictured is the blaze on Friday 

The Woolsey fire has since killed two people and burned through 96,314 acres in Los Angeles, including a number of celebrities' homes in Malibu. Pictured is the blaze on Friday 

The Woolsey fire has since killed two people and burned through 96,314 acres in Los Angeles, including a number of celebrities’ homes in Malibu. Pictured is the blaze on Friday 

PG&E informed the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that a high-voltage power line experienced a problem near the origin of the Camp Fire just minutes before the blaze broke out.   

California fire investigators were at Cowley’s property on Monday and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

CalFire spokesman Scott McLean said ‘electric equipment’ was being included in the probe.

The CPUC said it plans to look into the PG&E’s compliance with ‘applicable rules and regulations in fire impacted areas,’ according to spokeswoman Terrie Prosper.

Its investigation ‘may include an inspection of the fire sites once Cal Fire allows access, as well as maintenance of facilities, vegetation management, and emergency preparedness and response’. 

Sen Jerry Hill, a California Democrat and longtime critic of PG&E, called the report of troubles on the utility company’s lines in the area extremely worrisome.

Wildfires have broken out on both ends of the state. Together, they were blamed for 44 deaths, including two in celebrity-studded Malibu in Southern California

Wildfires have broken out on both ends of the state. Together, they were blamed for 44 deaths, including two in celebrity-studded Malibu in Southern California

Wildfires have broken out on both ends of the state. Together, they were blamed for 44 deaths, including two in celebrity-studded Malibu in Southern California

‘At some point, we have to say enough is enough, and we have to ask: Should this company be allowed to do business in California?’ Hill said. 

‘It takes a spark to cause a fire, and that spark seems to always be coming from PG&E lines – and that’s the problem.’   

‘We need to see how we can hold them responsible or look at alternative way of doing business.’

Mike Danko, a lawyer representing Camp Fire victims, said he plans to file a complaint against the company this week. 

Danko claims that the company did not go through with the planned shutdown on November 8 because company bonuses are tied to customer complaints. 

‘This is the worst of them all, because PG&E knew what to do to prevent the fire, knew what the risks of a fire are, and instead lined their pockets at the expense of customer safety,’ he said.    

PG&E isn’t the only utility company facing heat for the current barrage of wildfires in the state. 

Southern California Edison reported to the CPUC that there was an outage on an electric circuit right by the area where the Woolsey Fire first began. 

The Camp Fire (pictured on Friday) is now the deadliest and most destructive blaze in California's history  

The Camp Fire (pictured on Friday) is now the deadliest and most destructive blaze in California's history  

The Camp Fire (pictured on Friday) is now the deadliest and most destructive blaze in California’s history  

Mike Danko, a lawyer representing Camp Fire victims, said he plans to file a complaint against the company this week 

Mike Danko, a lawyer representing Camp Fire victims, said he plans to file a complaint against the company this week 

Mike Danko, a lawyer representing Camp Fire victims, said he plans to file a complaint against the company this week 

Just two minutes after the outage occurred on Thursday afternoon, the first reports of the fire started coming in.

The Woolsey fire has since killed two people and burned through 96,314 acres in Los Angeles, including a number of celebrities’ homes in Malibu.

SoCal Edison said it has received no indication that its equipment was involved in the fire, but authorities said the cause remains under investigation. 

Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said it would not surprise him if the Santa Ana winds caused equipment failure that could have sparked the deadly blaze. 

Alex Robertson, a plaintiff lawyer who has brought cases against SoCal Edison in the past, said he plans to file ‘several dozen’ lawsuits this week. 

‘We have strong evidence of Southern California Edison’s responsibility for the fire,’ Robertson told Bloomberg.  

A member of the Sacramento County Coroner's office looks for human remains in the rubble of a house burned at the Camp Fire on Monday 

A member of the Sacramento County Coroner's office looks for human remains in the rubble of a house burned at the Camp Fire on Monday 

A member of the Sacramento County Coroner’s office looks for human remains in the rubble of a house burned at the Camp Fire on Monday 

Sheriff's deputies recover the remains of a victim of the Camp Fire on Saturday in Paradise

Sheriff's deputies recover the remains of a victim of the Camp Fire on Saturday in Paradise

Sheriff’s deputies recover the remains of a victim of the Camp Fire on Saturday in Paradise

Shares of SoCal Edison’s parent company, Edison International, have tumbled more than 20 percent since the fire started. 

Both PG&E and SoCal Edison could face severe financial pressure if they are found liable for the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire. 

California is one of just two states that hold electric companies entirely liable for damage caused by their equipment, even if they followed all safety precautions. 

Gov Jerry Brown signed a new law in September that would make it easier for utility companies to pass on some of these costs to consumers and help them avoid bankruptcy from a series of major fires in 2017.  

But the law has a major gap: No damages specific to 2018 were included, so utilities face a higher bar to bill customers to cover those costs. 

And this year has already supplanted 2017 as the most destructive in California’s recorded history. 

Both PG&E and SoCal Edison could face severe financial pressure if they are found liable for the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire. Pictured is Paradise on Monday  

Both PG&E and SoCal Edison could face severe financial pressure if they are found liable for the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire. Pictured is Paradise on Monday  

Both PG&E and SoCal Edison could face severe financial pressure if they are found liable for the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire. Pictured is Paradise on Monday  

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