The Safety and Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced on Thursday that they had reached a settlement amount of $550 million with the Southern California Edison utility company over their role in 5 wildfires that occurred in 2017 and 2018.
CPUC investigations in the late 2010’s and early 2020’s concluded that Southern California Edison equipment sparked the Thomas, Liberty, and Rye Fires in 2017 and the Woolsey and Meyers Fires in 2018. Of these, the Woolsey and Thomas Fires proved to be the most destructive. The Thomas Fire, which burned through Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties between December 2017 and March 2018, was the eighth largest in state history, burning 440 square miles, destroying 1,063 buildings and causing the direct deaths of two people. The Woolsey Fire proved to be the eighth most destructive in state history, scorching Ventura County in November 2018 with a blaze that covered nearly 100,000 acres, destroying 1,643 buildings and killing 3 people.
Rather than go to court, Southern California Edison agreed to a settlement over all 5 fires. While avoiding the astronomical fines and settlements of $24.5 billion fellow utility company PG&E has had to pay in the past, Edison’s settlement still amounted to a large payout.
According to the settlement, Edison’s shareholders will pay $110 million to California’s general fund as a penalty and add in $65 million in safety measures and safety updates. The settlement also states Southern California Edison cannot have ratepayers pay the $125 million in claims from the Thomas Fire and $250 million in claims from the Woolsey Fire, essentially meaning that the company would have to directly pay those as well.
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