Southern California Edison is facing more than $500 million in state penalties and disallowances for its role in five Southern California wildfires in the company’s territory in 2017 and 2018, including the massive Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
On Dec. 16, the California Public Utilities Commission announced it approved penalties and permanent disallowances against SCE for the fires. Under a proposed settlement with the PUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division, SCE shareholders will pay a $110 million penalty to California’s general fund, incur a $375 million permanent disallowance for cost recovery, and contribute $65 million in shareholder funds to safety measures, for a total of $550 million.
The state agency said the Thomas, Rye, Meyers and Liberty fires ignited across several parts of SCE’s service territory in December 2017. The Woolsey Fire began in Ventura County in November 2018.
“Together these fires burned more than 385,000 acres, damaged and destroyed nearly 3,000 structures, and caused five fatalities,” the PUC’s statement said.
According to the PUC’s statement, the Safety and Enforcement Division’s investigations into the involvement of SCE’s infrastructure in the fires found “multiple violations” of a PUC regulation that “sets forth safety factors and strength requirements in the design, construction, and maintenance of overhead electrical lines and communications facilities.”
The settlement addresses these violations through shareholder-funded safety measures that include system enhancements to strengthen SCE’s electric system, community engagement activities and investments in safety studies, the PUC said.
The Thomas Fire burned more than 281,00 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Two people died in the fire, and the inferno was followed three weeks later by the flash flooding and debris flows in Montecito that killed 23.
The November 2018 Woolsey Fire charred nearly 97,00 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, destroyed more than 1,600 structures and killed three people.