Portland General tumbles after report equipment possibly led to fires

(Reuters) – Shares of Portland General Electric (POR.N) plummeted as much as 16% after media reported that the utility has received unconfirmed information that some fires in Oregon region may have been started by its electrical equipment.

Portland’s stock hit its lowest level in nearly six years as investors worried about potential liabilities and drew parallels with rival PG&E Corp (PCG.N) that filed for bankruptcy protection last year anticipating more than $30 billion in liabilities from deadly wildfires in California.

In the past three weeks, the U.S. West Coast has been reeling from dozens of extreme wind-driven wildfires, which have destroyed hundreds of homes and killed at least seven people.

Portland General said on Thursday it was not aware of any evidence that its equipment caused any of the fires.

The company added that it has proactively cut power to eight different high-risk fire areas in addition to the public safety power shutoff in the Mt. Hood corridor in Oregon.

The electric utility said in a statement dated Sept. 8 that it was receiving unconfirmed reports that some fires in Oregon may have been started by electrical equipment affected by heavy winds and debris. The company’s shares fell after CNBC reported the news on Thursday.

Three people died from a lightning-sparked fire in northern California in the past 48 hours, while three were reported dead in Oregon and a 1-year-old boy died in Washington state, police reported.

There are currently about 60,000 homes and businesses in Oregon without power, according to local utilities. Another 60,000 outages in Utah and about 30,000 in California are currently in place, most of them related to fires.

Utility firms in the United States have been embroiled in controversy over their equipment causing wildfires.

PG&E, which emerged from bankruptcy in July, has pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a devastating 2018 wildfire in n California touched off by its power lines.

Earlier this week, PG&E Corp shut power to around 150,000 customers in California due to fires. PG&E said this morning that it had restored service to most of those customers.

Source: reuters.com

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