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SoCal Edison, other companies, fined $22M for claims stemming from 2016 fire in Santa Barbara County

An exterior sign is photographed outside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building in Washington
Posted at 9:08 PM, Jul 07, 2023

Southern California Edison is one of three companies that have paid the United States $22 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed damages and costs associated with a 2016 fire in Santa Barbara County were the fault of the companies.

Southern California Edison (SCE), one of the major electrical utility companies in the state, Utility Tree Service and Frontier Communications Holdings, all paid to settle a lawsuit by the Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service that claimed a tree impact on a power line ignited the Rey Fire in August of 2016, the Department of Justice announced in a press release.

Utility Tree Service (UTS) was SCE’s vegetation management contractor. The U.S. alleged that the tree impact on power lines owned by SCE and Frontier caused a malfunction farther down the line, where an energized power line fell and ignited dry vegetation.

The Rey Fire burned more than 32,000 acres, including 19,000 acres of the Los Padres National Forest, part of National Forest System lands.

SCE, UTS and Frontier agreed to pay the settlement without admitting wrongdoing or fault, the press release said.

“This settlement will compensate the public for the expense of fighting the Rey Fire and restoring these federal lands that are enjoyed by all Americans,” First Assistant United States Attorney Joseph T. McNally said in a Department of Justice press release. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively pursue recovery against those who cause damages to our precious national resources.”