Southern California Edison Settles for $80 Million Over 2017 Thomas Fire Damages (Justice.gov)

Southern California Edison Settles for $80 Million Over 2017 Thomas Fire Damages

  Tuesday, February 27th, 2024 Source: Justice.gov

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Southern California Edison (SCE) will pay $80 million to settle claims related to the 2017 Thomas Fire, which ravaged parts of the Los Padres National Forest in California. This agreement, reached on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service, represents the largest wildfire cost recovery in the Central District of California’s history. The Thomas Fire, which ignited in two separate locations in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, eventually merged into a single blaze, consuming over 280,000 acres, including more than 150,000 acres of National Forest System lands.

The lawsuit filed by the United States in 2020 aimed to recover the costs of fighting the fire and the extensive damage it caused. The allegations pointed to SCE’s electrical infrastructure as the cause of the fire: contact between power lines in Anlauf Canyon and a failed transformer on Koenigstein Road that led to ignition in dry vegetation. This settlement, which SCE has agreed to without admitting fault, underscores the ongoing efforts to hold entities accountable for environmental and public land damages. The settlement amount is due within 60 days from the agreement date, February 23, emphasizing the resolution’s swift enactment.

This case highlights the intersection of utility infrastructure maintenance, environmental stewardship, and legal accountability. It also sets a precedent for future actions against utility companies in instances where their operations contribute to natural disasters. The Thomas Fire settlement illustrates the significant financial and environmental costs associated with wildfires and the importance of diligent infrastructure maintenance and oversight.

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