Santa Rosa, CA – August 10, 2020 at 3:25 PM – The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 will discuss the allocation of $149 million in Pacific Gas & Electric settlement funds and is seeking public input on how the funds should be spent before making a final decision.
In addition to hearing ideas from the public at its Tuesday meeting, the Board is expected to direct staff to accept written input from the community via email until Sept. 4. Staff will then compile, summarize and share these ideas prior to the Board’s Oct. 6 meeting where a possible decision will be made about how the funds will be allocated.
The funds are the result of a lawsuit Sonoma County filed on Feb. 26, 2018 against PG&E as a result of damages related to the October 2017 fires. The lawsuit, along with hundreds of other consolidated claims filed by other public entities, fire victims and insurance companies, came to a halt when PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan. 29, 2019. Sonoma County and eight other public entities settled their damage claims with PG&E on June 18, 2019 for a total of $415 million. Based on a pro rata share allocation of the respective amounts of actual damages suffered by each entity, Sonoma County received a total of $149.3 million, after attorneys’ fees and costs. The bankruptcy court approved PG&E’s reorganization plan on June 20.
The County’s calculated losses from the 2017 fires include $111.5 million in damages to roads, culverts and trees and ecosystem service losses, including watershed restoration and water quality protection. The County also has listed other costs including $26.8 million in out-of-pocket expenses, which includes staff time and labor costs to perform work related to the fire response and recovery efforts.
In determining allocations for the PG&E settlement funds, the Board of Supervisors is expected to consider making further investments in recovery and resiliency as guided by the Recovery and Resiliency Framework vision that the Board adopted in December 2018. The Board also is expected to be influenced by the County’s five-year Strategic Plan priorities, which supervisors are now in the process of updating. As discussed during the July 27-28 Budget Workshops, the Board also may decide to use a portion of the settlement funds to address the County’s current $45 million budget shortfall that’s a result of revenue declines and cost increases associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn.
Community members are encouraged to provide input by emailing suggestions to PGECommunityResponse@sonoma-county.org between now and September 4, 2020.