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Edison Fined $576,000 by PUC for Violations Involving 25 Accidents

June 20, 2003|Nancy Rivera Brooks | Times Staff Writer

The California Public Utilities Commission fined Southern California Edison $576,000 on Thursday for sloppy maintenance that contributed to 25 accidents involving death, injury and property damage, including the death of an 11-year-old girl at an Inglewood pool party.

The PUC decision, the result of a nearly two-year investigation, found that the Rosemead utility violated state utility regulations more than 4,700 times from 1998 to 2000.

The fines were assessed primarily for the most serious violations. Of these, 14 contributed to injury or death and another 11 resulted in property damage.

The most poignant example was the July 2000 death of a girl attending a swimming party. She had climbed a ladder to a pool slide and touched against a drooping electrical wire when she reached the top.

A complaint against Edison filed by a PUC division had recommended a fine of slightly more than $97 million for the 4,700 violations. Southern California Edison last year had revenue of nearly $8.7 billion.

Edison was assessed a lower fine in recognition that "it is impossible for a utility to keep its distribution system in perfect compliance" with safety regulations, said the order, written by PUC Administrative Law Judge Janet A. Econome. In addition, most of the problems didn't threaten lives or property and Edison fixed them promptly, the order said.

Edison spokesman Gil Alexander declined to comment, saying the utility had not had time to review the decision.

However, Alexander said, "Our infrastructure maintenance program has been recognized as one of the best in the industry with respect to service reliability and safety."

The decision also ordered Edison to work with the commission to refine its maintenance practices.

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