Southern California Edison agreed Thursday to pay a $550 million settlement for violations related to the ignition of five Southern California brush fires, including the Rye Fire, between 2017-2018.
In a statement released by the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, the utility company was found to have had “multiple violations of CPUC safety factors and strength requirements in the design, construction and maintenance of overhead electrical lines and communications facilities.”
The fires referenced in the decision — the Rye, Meyers, Liberty and Thomas fires that burned in 2017, as well as the Woolsey Fire that began in Ventura County in 2018 — burned more than 385,000 acres, damaged nearly 3,000 structures and caused five fatalities.
The Rye Fire, that began in the morning of Dec. 5, 2017 on the 25000 block of Rye Canyon Loop in Canyon Country, resulted in the burning of approximately 6,000 acres and injured one firefighter. The fire also destroyed six structures, damaged three others and burned for little over a week before the Los Angeles County Fire Department declared full containment.
SCE officials stated Friday that they did not admit to negligence or liability in the approved settlement, but said they believed the settlement to be “fair and reasonable.”
“A key component of the agreement is to continue investing in our system and our communities to mitigate the risk of future wildfires,” said Reggie Kumar, a spokesman for SCE. “Our thoughts continue to be with the families and businesses who have been affected by wildfires.”
“Under a proposed settlement with the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division (SED), 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,” read a CPUC statement about the decision.
In addition to the penalties, the settlement also included the company addressing system enhancements, community engagement and investments in safety studies, according to CPUC officials.