California utilities commission approves $51.5 million settlement for Malibu Canyon fire (Read the full decision here)

Santa Anna Winds Stoke Wildfires In Southern California

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Fire burns close to homes off Malibu Canyon Road Oct. 21, 2007 in Malibu, California.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved settlement agreements totaling $51.5 million Thursday with Southern California Edison and NextG Networks for the companies' roles in the 2007 Malibu Canyon fire, which was sparked by power lines that toppled in high winds.

According to the CPUC, Edison will pay $37 million in conjunction with the utility's admission that a power pole was overloaded in violation of commission rules. NextG will pay $14.5 million, also admitting that a pole was overloaded.

The Malibu Canyon fire began in October 2007 when three utility poles fell during a Santa Ana windstorm, according to the CPUC. The fire burned more than 3,800 acres and destroyed 14 structures.

The settlements with Edison and NextG also require the inspection of more than 61,000 power poles to ensure they comply with state safety regulations. The state also imposed more stringent safety requirements for poles in Malibu.

"These settlements not only financially penalize two companies for wrongdoing and serve as a deterrent to future violations of CPUC rules, but they also increase safety going forward by requiring inspections, repairs and strengthening safety factors to make poles in the Malibu area better-able to withstand high winds," according to CPUC commissioner Carla J. Peterman.

Edison officials noted that $17 million of its settlement with the commission will go toward safety enhancements. The company also noted that the utility has begun an inspection program for its more than 1.4 million poles, and the cost of the settlement will be borne by shareholders, not Edison customers.

Officials with NextG could not be reached for immediate comment.

The CPUC last year approved a $12 million settlement with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint stemming from the Malibu Canyon fire.

PUC settlement decision by scprweb

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