Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

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View of the Thomas Fire in 2017 (Photo: Mike Eliason / SBCFD)

By edhat staff

Southern California Edison (SCE) has settled claims with 23 public entities from the 2017 Thomas Fire and 2018 Montecito Debris Flow for $360 million.

The settlement also includes impacts from the 2017 Koenigstein Fire and 2018 Woolsey Fire.

"Under the settlements, payments totaling $360 million will be made to the 23 public entities for damages alleged to have been caused by the fires and debris flows, with $150 million allocated to the 2017 fire and 2018 debris flow events and the remaining $210 million allocated to the 2018 Woolsey Fire. The agreements are a compromise reached by SCE and the public entities to resolve the public entities’ claims, and no admission of wrongdoing or liability was made in reaching these agreements," according to a press release by SCE.

The settlements apply to damages claimed by the public entities only and do not affect the claims of individuals or businesses. 

The public entities included for the Thomas Fire, Koenigstein Fire, and Montecito Debris Flow include: City of Santa Barbara, Montecito Water District, County of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County Fire Protection District, Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, City of Buenaventura, Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District, Montecito Fire Protection District, County of Ventura, Ventura County Watershed Protection District and the Ventura County Fire Protection District.

The City of Santa Barbara announced it's receiving a $6,771,882 million settlement as well as $23,918,529 set aside for FEMA/OES reimbursement of pending City claims. The settlement covers lost property, lost revenues, unplanned expenditures, and lost community assets such as environmental and recreational resources, and government infrastructure.

The Montecito Water District announces it will receive approximately $8 million to help complete repairs of critical infrastructure damaged during the fire and debris flow.

“The Water District suffered significant infrastructure damages including the loss of water supply and storage capacity at Jameson Lake as a result of the 2017 Thomas Fire and the 2018 Montecito Debris Flow,” said Montecito Water District Board President Floyd Wicks.

The County of Ventura has agreed to a $20.8 million settlement and stated after costs and attorney’s fees, the County will receive a net total of $16.7 million.

“We look forward to engaging with other parties who have a similar interest in good faith settlement efforts. We also will continue to make substantial investments in our system and enhance our operational practices to reduce the risk of wildfires in our service area and safely provide power to homes and businesses,” said Pedro J. Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison International, the parent company of SCE.

SCE states it has taken steps to reduce the risk of fires caused by its electrical equipment in high-risk fire areas. The company has proposed spending $582 million on its Grid Safety and Resiliency Program (GSRP) which includes installing insulated wire to reduce the risk of sparks. SCE has installed the first 300 miles of insulated wire, with plans to replace nearly 1,000 miles by the end of 2020 and to install about 4,900 additional miles between 2021 and 2023.

Other steps to prevent fires started by electrical fires include the controversial Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) where power grids are shut down during potentially dangerous weather conditions in fire-prone areas.  

In their press release, SCE points out "many factors contribute to rising wildfire risk" including dry vegetation, drought, hazardous fuels, increasing temperatures, lower humidity, and strong Santa Ana winds.

SCE has yet to settle claims and lawsuits with individuals and businesses.

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[email protected] Nov 15, 2019 10:39 AM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

Three years after the disaster, is there any effort underway getting the affected areas cleaned up and planted so that it does not look like we are all still living in a disaster area? The "Bucket Brigade" was incredible, but it does not stop there. I bet it would improve the overall outlook of the community to have some greenery to view as opposed to dead trees, massive boulders and debris. Just a thought.

a-1575655699 Nov 13, 2019 11:41 PM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

The inverse condemnation law is foolish and unfair. It decrees that utilities are strictly liable- that means even if they weren’t negligent. Think about that. The flood was an act of god. A tremendous flow of rain and a repeat of what happened in the 1960’s. And you’ve got the climate hysterics saying these fires and floods are caused by global warming. If so, why hold utilities to an impossible standard? Beyond that- and here’s the rub- we, the ratepayers will pick up the bill through increased fees. If we don’t, the utility goes out of business and for those who think the government can do a better job, please get treated at a VA hospital next time.

jqb Nov 14, 2019 10:59 AM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

Typical dishonest denier talking points. "Claiming that human caused global warming is truth because a lot of people believe in it is religion, not science." -- This strawman gives away how extraordinarily dishonest you are. You know nothing of climate science and deny all presented facts.

jqb Nov 14, 2019 11:20 AM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

It is denial that is religious, rooted in ideology, not facts. But denial doesn't cancel the scientific facts of reality: https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/14/europe/veneto-council-climate-change-floods-trnd-intl-scli/index.html The science is out there to be had for people who aren't fundamentally dishonest; even you know where to look, fake-skeptic. I won't waste more of my time.

Chip of SB Nov 14, 2019 10:47 AM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

"Denier" is a religious term, not a scientific term. Science is open to debate and encourages new and differing ideas. Science is not righteous, and instead acknowledges its limitations and uncertainties. Also, science allows one individual to be proven correct against a "consensus" of many (like Galileo). In religion, debate is not allowed and the truth is determined by the "consensus" of the majority. Claiming that human caused global warming is truth because a lot of people believe in it is religion, not science. Religious zealots persecute those who do not toe the line, calling them deniers for example. A scientist would dispassionately assess competing theories, identify their strengths and limitations, and devise experiments to evaluate them. Suppression of dissenting viewpoints is not compatible with science.

Flicka Nov 13, 2019 04:45 PM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

Our taxes are what pay for the expenses to fire departments, water districts, etc. incurred from the fires and debris flows. So, yes, SEC is responsible for some help for the cost, ultimately helping us as tax payers. Why would these public outfits owe any money to private citizens? NONE is correct. Most can sue and collect from their insurance. No amount of money is going to make everything perfect again.

Eggs Ackley Nov 15, 2019 08:44 AM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

Dude or dudette. Jumping on the lineman and his pay is really out of touch. Speaking of touching, did you know that electricity can kill? These guys work with high voltages day in and day out. They come restore your power on a rainy stormy night so your coffeemaker will work in the morning. Don't be a bitch. By the by, Edison Intl, a public company pays a 3.6% dividend to their shareholders. WTF? That's $877 million if my math is accurate.

Luvaduck Nov 14, 2019 09:42 AM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

The money SCE pays doesn't come from the pockets of overpaid corporate officials w/poor judgment or maintenance crews if they screwed up. It is funded by electric users, either residents directedly or businesses who will then pass the cost to customers. Either way, you lose.

CoastWatch Nov 13, 2019 05:24 PM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

Here's a reality check for you Flicka- There is a portion of every bill that PG&E and SCE customers pay (at least over the last 30 yrs) is supposed to go to upgrading their INFRASTRUCTURE... Did that happen...??? NO, Did the Executives and Upper Management continue to recieve 100's of Millions of dollars EACH year ...? YES. Do the linemen and women continue to make $300K plus in salaries and OT maintaining circa 1800's powerlines across the country....? YES . Meanwhile Billion$ of dollars in private and public property have been destroyed, lives lost ... and the money continues to flow to the above mentioned....

Chip of SB Nov 13, 2019 04:15 PM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

Perhaps SCE ignited the fire, but I feel like the outcome was inevitable with our without their contribution. We know the mountains above Santa Barbara and Montecito will burn. We could clear fire breaks, build more access roads, conduct controlled burns, etc. to mitigate this danger. We choose not to do that. We know the watersheds in the mountains above Santa Barbara and Montecito cause flooding and debris flows. We could build debris basins to protect our communities (Carpinteria did, and was spared from flooding). We choose not to do that. If we continue to choose not to address these issues, Montecito and the city of Santa Barbara will experience catastrophic debris flows in the future regardless of what ignites the fire that precedes them.

Luvaduck Nov 14, 2019 09:47 AM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

Whoever OKs building in flood plains, too close to the forest or shore and any other inherently dangerous area should stop. Great for developers & people who can afford McMansions w/great views. Risky & expensive for the rest of us. We pay higher insurance rates and suffer damages, smoke and soot if not being burned out.

Lucky 777 Nov 15, 2019 09:08 AM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

Yes Roger, I got pneumonia from the Thomas fire and was greatly impacted when an accident put me in the hospital and I had to wait for a week for surgery while they cleared my lungs to survive anesthesia. The untold stories, and uncompensated because that's just the way it is.

jqb Nov 13, 2019 05:12 PM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

If Alice hurts Bob and Carol and Bob wins a lawsuit against Alice, how much of the reward goes to Carol … NONE! Which, um, makes sense … Carol can still sue Bob. In this case, though, in addition to individuals being able to file their own lawsuits against SCE, ALL of the reward that goes to the city, county, etc. goes to their citizens, because they are the source of the revenue for those entities and the recipients of their services--Civics 101.

a-1575655699 Nov 13, 2019 04:52 PM
Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits

OOPS - simmer down, you're wrong. It's OK to be wrong. Here's why you're wrong: "The settlements apply to damages claimed by the public entities only and do not affect the claims of individuals or businesses. " Try again....oops!

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