State regulators announced Oct. 16 that they have fined Southern California Edison $8 million for alleged safety violations uncovered after a 2015 fallen powerline incident in the Mojave Desert community Twentynine Palms.
The incident occurred when a man was injured as he struck a low-hanging energized powerline while riding an off-road vehicle on Aug. 1, 2015, days after a severe weather incident had damaged a pole, allowing the powerline to sag.
Two more men riding off-road vehicles were injured – one with electrocution burns – when they came into contact with the energized powerline while trying to provide aid to the initially injured man. All three were treated and ultimately released from area hospitals.
After an investigation, the state Public Utilities Commission determined that a crossbar attached to the power pole had broken off. The commission ruled that SCE, a unit of Rosemead-based Edison International, failed to ensure that the crossbar could withstand severe weather conditions normal to the area. In February of this year, PUC fined Edison $300,000 for this violation.
SCE appealed that ruling, triggering a supplemental investigation, which, among other things, found that SCE did not post adequate signage warning of high-voltage power lines in that location. As a result, the PUC Office of Enforcement came back with an amended citation on Oct. 3 that increased the fine to $8 million.
Edison issued a statement saying it would appeal this latest fine.
“When SCE was notified of the equipment failure, it took immediate safety and corrective actions,” the statement said. “SCE fully cooperated with SED in its investigation into the incident….“SCE filed an appeal of the original citation and intends to appeal the amended citation, which has added three additional violations and increased the penalty from $300,000 to $8 million.”
Economy, education, energy and transportation reporter Howard Fine can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.