2 utilities sued over deadly California mudslides
- A lawsuit filed this week in Santa Barbara County Superior Court alleges Southern California Edison is partially to blame for California's deadly mudslide that killed at least 20 people last week. An attorney for the plaintiffs said damages could reach $1 billion.
- The suit claims a wildfire sparked by SCE's equipment burned vegetation which would have stopped the mudslide. Montecito Water District has also been added to the suit, which initially just named SCE, according to The Sacramento Bee. In a statement, SCE noted it was too soon to discuss the mudslide lawsuit,
- Utilities and their shareholders may be facing increased liability from California's recent natural disasters. Last year, the California Public Utilities Commission ruled San Diego Gas & Electric was responsible for $379 million in costs related to the 2007 southern California wildfires, concluding the utility did not reasonably operate its facilities linked to the fires. The utility had attempted to recover those costs from ratepayers.
California has been plagued by natural disasters in recent months, including deadly wildfires and mudslides. Utilities in the state had already been facing lawsuits related to the fires, but a new suit filed this week seeks to recover damages for the more recent mudslides.
According to the lawsuit, a Jan. 9 mudslide happened because SCE's equipment sparked the Thomas Fire in December, burning vegetation which could have prevented the mudslide. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against SCE related to the Thomas Fire, which killed two and destroyed more than 1,000 structures.
The CPUC's decision last year to block SDE&G from recovering some fire costs from ratepayers, was closely watched by SCE and Pacific Gas and Electric. In 2007, a series of fires destroyed 1,300 homes and 200,000 acres in San Diego County. Administrative law judges subsequently found SDG&E had not properly managed the risk to its system.
PG&E is also under scrutiny for a possible role in sparking wildfires last year. The commission has directed PG&E to preserve any evidence that connects the utility to wildfires, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is investigating the utility's power equipment as a possible cause.
- The Sacramento Nee Suit targets California utilities over deadly mudslides
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