No. 1 United States utility PG&E prepares bankruptcy filing after wildfires

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The company, in a public filing, cited at least $7 billion in claims from the Camp Fire.

California's largest utility company said on Sunday its chief executive had resigned as the firm faces billions of dollars in potential liabilities tied to the state's deadly and destructive wildfires past year.

PG&E is facing lawsuits from the Camp Fire that occurred a year ago, as well as from a 2017 blaze.

A notice may signal that the company has accelerated plans to make a Chapter 11 filing as way of dealing with crippling liabilities from the wildfires of 2017 and 2018 that killed more than 100 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres.

PG&E CEO Geisha Williams stepped down from her position on Sunday. PG&E's board said it would search for a new chief executive with "extensive operational and safety expertise". It would allow the company to continue operating during Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The utility went through a reorganization from 2001 to 2004, which resulted in a settlement that was estimated to cost the average customer anywhere from $1,300 to $1,700, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Vanguard held $227.9 million of PG&E debt in its $5.6 billion California Municipal Money Market fund as of December 31, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

"The people affected by the devastating Northern California wildfires are our customers, our neighbors and our friends, and we understand the profound impact the fires have had on our communities and the need for PG&E to continue enhancing our wildfire mitigation efforts", interim CEO John Simon said in a statement Monday. Here, transmission towers in a valley near Paradise, Calif., as the Camp Fire burns in November 2017. "The Company also expects that its employees will continue to receive their pay and healthcare benefits as usual".

The company said it will be able to gain access to capital and resources it needs to continue providing service to customers as it restructures.

Kilstein said he was surprised to see PG&E announce plans to declare bankruptcy.

"Following a comprehensive review with the assistance of our outside advisors, the PG&E Board and management team have determined that initiating a Chapter 11 reorganization for both the Utility and PG&E Corporation represents the only viable option to address the Company's responsibilities to its stakeholders", said Richard C. Kelly, chair of the board of directors at PG&E.

Fire officials have not yet officially said what caused the blaze, but have focused on power equipment.

PG&E's financial woes have already spread to the companies that supply its natural gas and generate electricity for its customers.

California's power companies have argued that climate change and urban development in fire-prone wilderness areas should shoulder much of the blame for the increasing number of fires in the state.

It is believed the fire was started when a PG&E power line came in contact with nearby trees.