SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Northern California communities struggling to rebuild after devastating wildfires in the last several years are hoping a $1 billion settlement will fund the future. More than half of this settlement will go to Butte County, with $270 million specifically going to the government for the town of Paradise.
“I was shocked to hear PG&E was going to help cities and parks, but what about us,” said Elyssa Crane.
Elyssa Crane has been living in a Homewood Suites since the Camp Fire ripped through her apartment complex in Paradise on November 8, 2018.
“We’ve been desperately looking for places. We’ve been looking out of state. A lot of our friends have moved out of state,” said Crane.
The Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed more than 13,000 homes in Paradise. It’s expected to take years to rebuild. To help that community and several others, PG&E will pay $582 million in damages to local governments to cover “taxpayer losses.”
Paradise Town Council member Melissa Schuster responded to the announcement this afternoon saying: “It’s going to be used to rebuild our finances. Ninety percent of our property taxes were lost because of the Camp Fire and virtually all sales tax revenue. This will help us secure our financial future so that we can rebuild our town.”
“This settlement is the first of its kind in the PG&E bankruptcy,” said John Fiske.
Fiske is lead counsel for the Town of Paradise and Butte County in the case against PG&E for the 2018 Camp Fire. He believes this is a good faith settlement for the 14 communities involved, but notes PG&E has to come out of bankruptcy.
“So as long as PG&E is stuck in the bankruptcy, the money is stuck in the bankruptcy too,” said Fiske.
So the town watches and waits, making plans to spend that money for much-needed police and fire services, roads and evacuation routes.
“Let’s hope they put it into the services for the people who want to rebuild up there,” said Crane.
Tuesday’s settlement doesn’t affect the millions in civil lawsuits against PG&E over wildfire losses. The mayor says the council will have a goal-setting session as part of the budget hearing in early July.
A judge overseeing that case must approve the settlement.