Bankruptcy judge to hear PG&E motions on Thursday

A federal bankruptcy judge in San Francisco on Tuesday scheduled a hearing for Thursday on 17 preliminary motions by PG&E Co. in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

The San Francisco-based utility filed its bankruptcy petition early Tuesday, saying it estimates financial liability of more than $50 billion in the wake of devastating Northern California wildfires in 2017 and 

The motions to be heard by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali include requests for approval to continue paying the utility's 24,000 workers, to continue paying electricity and natural gas suppliers and to go ahead with receiving $5.5 billion in bank loans while giving those banks top priority for repayment.

The Chapter 11 procedure freezes a company's debts but allows it to continue operating while developing a financial reorganization plan.

Montali said he wants any groups that may object to the motions to have a chance to be heard and said they must file objections in writing by 8 a.m. Thursday in advance of the 10 a.m. hearing.

He told PG&E attorneys, "I want to make sure people understand that this is not set up (just) for you and your clients."

Outside of court, Amanda Riddle, a lawyer for 1,500 victims of recent wildfires, said she hopes fire victims can receive compensation before the end of the bankruptcy process, which could take two or more years.

"They are suffering the most," she said.

Whether the victims receive compensation soon will depend on the court-approved financial plan, the attorney said.