PG&E Shares Stumble Again on Report of Second Incident Prior to Camp Fire

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PG&E Corp. (NYSE: PCG) added about 38% back to its share price on Friday to close the day at $24.40 after closing Thursday at $17.74. The stock has dropped about 5% in Monday’s premarket following a Friday filing with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that noted a previously unreported outage to the company’s service in Butte County, the scene of the deadly Camp Fire.

In a press release describing the company’s efforts at restoring electrical power to customers, PG&E subsidiary Pacific Gas & Electric Company referred to “an additional initial electric incident report” filed with the CPUC.

In that report, Pacific Gas & Electric said:

On November 8, 2018, at approximately 0645 hours, PG&E experienced an outage on the Big Bend 1101 12kV Circuit in Butte County. CAL FIRE has collected PG&E equipment on that circuit. CAL FIRE has secured a location near PG&E facilities on that circuit. This information is preliminary. PG&E is cooperating with CAL FIRE.

In a report filed last week, the company noted an outage on a 115-kV transmission line “in the area of the Camp Fire.” PG&E noted at that time that if the company’s equipment is determined to be the cause of the fire, it could be subject to “significant liability” beyond its $1.4 billion insurance coverage. The stock plunged on the report.

Friday’s share price recovery followed comments by CPUC president Michael Picker who said the commission “doesn’t want PG&E to go into bankruptcy.” Picker’s comments were interpreted to mean the commission would figure out a way to allow PG&E to issue state-authorized bonds to meet potential claims from the Camp Fire.

As of Sunday evening, the fire has claimed 77 lives and nearly 1,000 people are still unaccounted for. The fire has burned some 150,000 acres (nearly 235 square miles), destroyed more than 10,000 homes, and more than 3,000 other structures. The fire is reported to be 65% contained.