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    Newsom Claimed Fires Caused by Climate Change, NOT Any Company

    By Evan Symon, California Globe

    The Safety and Enforcement Division of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced on Thursday that they had reached a settlement amount of $550 million with the Southern California Edison utility company over their role in 5 wildfires that occurred in 2017 and 2018.

    <span> <span style=font family helvetica arial sans serif>The 2018 Woolsey Fire Photo Youtube<span>

    CPUC investigations in the late 2010’s and early 2020’s concluded that Southern California Edison equipment sparked the Thomas, Liberty, and Rye Fires in 2017 and the Woolsey and Meyers Fires in 2018. Of these, the Woolsey and Thomas Fires proved to be the most destructive. The Thomas Fire, which burned through Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties between December 2017 and March 2018, was the eighth largest in state history, burning 440 square miles, destroying 1,063 buildings and causing the direct deaths of two people. The Woolsey Fire proved to be the eighth most destructive in state history, scorching Ventura County in November 2018 with a blaze that covered nearly 100,000 acres, destroying 1,643 buildings and killing 3 people.

    Rather than go to court, Southern California Edison agreed to a settlement over all 5 fires. While avoiding the astronomical fines and settlements of $24.5 billion fellow utility company PG&E has had to pay in the past, Edison’s settlement still amounted to a large payout.

    According to the settlement, Edison’s shareholders will pay $110 million to California’s general fund as a penalty and add in $65 million in safety measures and safety updates. The settlement also states Southern California Edison cannot have ratepayers pay the $125 million in claims from the Thomas Fire and $250 million in claims from the Woolsey Fire, essentially meaning that the company would have to directly pay those as well.

    CPUC’s five-member Safety and Enforcement division commission and Southern California Edison agreed to the settlement with the condition that the utility company not agreeing to admitting fault for the five fires.

    “The settlement is fair and reasonable,” said Southern California Edison spokesman Ben Gallagher on Thursday. “This puts one additional uncertainty behind us as the utility continues to implement its comprehensive wildfire risk mitigation measures.”

    Thursday, many noted that the settlement amount would have been much higher with a more formal investigation and if litigated in court.

    “[Southern California Edison] didn’t exactly dodge a bullet here, but they took one that was only a flesh wound,” noted former environmental lobbyist Margaret Horner Thursday to the Globe. “SCE learned from all the PG&E cases that settling was by far the best way to go. All the victims get money and are compensated for their losses, regulators like CPUC don’t put a stranglehold on the business side of things, and SCE will have to pay and put in a lot more safety measures but also skirts around having to admit to fault. It’s not perfect, but everyone walks away with something they wanted out of this. And, remember, no one wanted any of these fires to happen, and they did. For wildfire settlements, it was a bit more expensive, but it seemed to work out for everyone.”

    Other utility company settlements due to wildfires are expected to be agreed upon soon in California.



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