Pacific Power reaches $178 million settlement for role in 2020 Labor Day wildfires



(The Center Square) – Pacific Power reached a $178 million settlement with 403 plaintiffs, the company announced this week.

Most of the plaintiffs opted out of the James class action litigation.

Pacific Power has settled about 1,500 Labor Day 2020 wildfire claims with people and businesses in California and Oregon and plans to settle what it deems reasonable claims.

“We are pleased to resolve these claims to provide plaintiffs with some closure,” Ryan Flynn, Pacific Power president, said in a statement. “The process that led to this settlement represents the fairest and most efficient way to resolve wildfire litigation. Class litigation is costly, complex, takes several years to run its course through the legal system, and is a barrier to reasonable outcomes for impacted individuals whose personal experiences vary dramatically.”

Most of these plaintiffs were impacted by the Echo Mountain Complex Fire along Oregon’s central coast, according to KGW.

Warren Allen, Swigart Law Group, and Spreter & Petiprin represented the plaintiffs in the settlement.

“This settlement marks a significant step forward for all Oregonians affected by the 2020 Labor Day Fires,” George McCoy, attorney at Warren Allen, said. “It provides meaningful compensation to those affected, enabling them to rebuild and recover from these traumatic events. We acknowledge PacifiCorp’s willingness to engage in constructive dialogue and reach a mutually agreeable resolution. This settlement represents a collaborative effort to address the needs of the community, and we remain committed to pursuing further resolutions to support the ongoing recovery of all Oregonians affected by the fires.”

The Labor Day 2020 wildfires were among the worst natural disasters in state history. They killed nine people and burned over 1,875 square miles, destroying thousands of homes and businesses.

In June 2023, a jury found Pacific Power liable for not cutting power to 600,000 customers despite being ordered to do so by top fire officials, according to KGW. By not cutting power, the company is said to have worsened the wildfires.

Power companies have also been found liable for worsening natural disasters in other states.

For example, Pacific Gas and Electric in California paid $45 million in penalties earlier this year for its role in the 2021 Dixie Fire, according to CNN; it was the second-largest wildfire in state history. The fire started in July 2021 when power lines owned by the company came into contact with a tree. Plus, a Texas House committee determined earlier this year that a decayed power poll that fell onto dry grass caused the largest wildfire in state history, according to the Texas Tribune.

The settlement also comes as Oregon is embracing a diversity, equity, and inclusion mentality to brush clearing — a practice used to mitigate future wildfires. The Walker Range Forest Protection Association recently received $2.7 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law, so it will “complete mitigation efforts adjacent to disadvantaged communities utilizing specialized mastication equipment … (to) enhance defensible space while providing job training and hands-on learning not only in fuels reduction but in forest management using diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice mindsets,” as The Center Square previously reported.

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