LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - A settlement between the California Public Utilities Commission and Southern California Edison was reached on Friday afternoon in response to a lawsuit revolving around five wildfires that devastated the California landscape in 2017 and 2018.
SoCal Edison was ordered to pay $550 million to the California Public Utilities Commission safety and enforcement division, $125 million of which will be used to cover insurance claims from the Thomas Fire, while $250 million will be used for the same reason in relation to the Woolsey Fires. The remaining total, will be used to pay a $110 million penalty to California's general fund, and $65 million towards further safety measures; the $65 million must come from shareholder money.
Those safety measures include emergency prevention methods, system enhancements, and contributions to fire safety-focused nonprofits.
The safety and enforcement division of CPUC found that SoCal Edison violated multiple state safety regulations including the design, construction and maintenance of power lines and communication facilities.
The lawsuit also involves the Rye, Meyers and Liberty fires. The five fires totaled nearly $10 billion in damages, destroying over 2,700 buildings and killing five people directly, 23 indirectly by Montecito mudslides at the Thomas Fire burn scar. The fires also burned nearly 450,000 acres - 447,225.
While half a billion dollars may seem like a drastic amount of money, some Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles County residents whose lives were changed by the wildfires view this as a slap to the face.
Faisal Al-Hardan had an ocean-view property in Malibu, on which he was building his new home, destroyed by the Woolsey fire. He believes that SoCal Edison is getting off easy, with $550 million equating to just a drop in the bucket for the multi-billion dollar corporation.
"They are getting away with murder, they inflicted multiple billions of dollars worth of damage that they are not paying for. That's the bottom line. And that $550 million dollar fine is a drop in the ocean," said Al-Hardan.
He continued on to say that the company would rather pay for damages caused by fires than pay to put power equipment underground.
Along with what many believe is far less than enough to make up for the fallout from the fires, Edison also goes without admitting fault for any of the fires, after signing the settlement agreement.
In response to the settlement, SoCal Edison issued a statement via spokesperson Ben Gallagher:
"The company believes the agreement is fair and reasonable and puts one additional uncertainty behind us as the utility continues to implement its comprehensive wildfire risk mitigation measures. ... Our thoughts continue to be with the families and businesses who have been affected by wildfires."
Edison is not permitted to pass off the costs of the settlement onto any of their 15 million customers in any fashion, as agreed to in the settlement.
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