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Utility faces charges for setting wildfires

A California prosecutor filed 33 criminal charges Tuesday against troubled Pacific Gas & Electric for a 2019 wind-driven wildfire officials blamed on the utility, accusing it of injuring six firefighters and endangering public health with smoke and ash.

The company denied that it committed any crimes even as it accepted that its transmission line sparked the blaze.

The Sonoma County district attorney charged the utility with five felony and 28 misdemeanor counts in the October 2019 Kincade Fire north of San Francisco. The blaze burned more than 120 square miles (311 sq. km.) and destroyed 374 buildings.

The 33 charges include recklessly causing a fire that seriously injured six firefighters. Fire officials said a PG&E transmission line sparked the fire, which destroyed hundreds of homes and caused nearly 100,000 people to flee.

The utility said it hadn't seen the report or evidence gathered by state fire investigators, but it will accept the finding that its transmission line in the Geysers Geothermal Field northeast of Geyserville caused the fire "in the spirit of working to do what's right for the victims."

"However, we do not believe there was any crime here," the company said in a statement. "We remain committed to making it right for all those impacted and working to further reduce wildfire risk on our system."

 

Businesses join effort to boost minorities

The CEOs of Starbucks and Goldman Sachs will join leaders from philanthropy and academia in a new initiative to address the racial wealth gap in the United States.

The initiative is called NinetyToZero, so named for the roughly 90% wealth gap between white and Black Americans. Its leaders describe the goal as providing a roadmap for organizations to "counteract centuries of discrimination, segregation, and financial exploitation," according to the group's launch plans announced Tuesday.

"Every business has a responsibility — and can influence others — to advance racial equity, create opportunities for others and strengthen the communities it serves," Kevin Johnson, Starbucks' CEO, said in a statement.

Organizations that join NinetyToZero agree to establish internal goals for hiring and promoting Black talent. They also pledge to calculate how much money is spent with Black-owned businesses and in Black-owned financial institutions.

"Racial wealth inequity is a threat to child well-being and America's future," the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, CEO of the Children's Defense Fund, another inaugural member, said in a statement.

 

Electric Chevy to get 400 miles per charge

General Motors says an electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck will get an estimated 400 miles of range per charge.

The company announced the range on Tuesday and said the truck would be built at a factory straddling the border of Detroit and the enclave of Hamtramck. It also announced that the plant would build the new 2024 GMC Hummer SUV.

The pickup announcement raises the level of competition for future buyers in the hot truck market. Ford already has announced plans to build an electric F-150 starting next year in Dearborn, Michigan, while Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis) has said it plans to have an all-electric Ram pickup. GM didn't say when the electric Silverado would arrive in dealerships.

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