Southern California Edison Settles Thomas Fire & Debris Flow Lawsuits
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.