The County of Maui today filed a nuisance and liability suit against Maui Electric Co., Hawaiian Electric Co. Hawaii Electric Light Co. and Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., or HEI, alleging that the defendants are responsible for destruction caused by the fires because they did not heed the warnings of the National Weather Service and de-energize their power lines.
In addition to the nuisance claim, the complaint includes claims related to negligence, gross negligence, ultrahazardous activity and trespass. Maui County is also seeking an order enjoining the defendants from further leaving their power lines energized in high fire risk areas.
Maui County contends that the “[d]efendants’ inactions caused loss of life, severe injuries, complete destruction of homes and businesses, displacement of thousands of people, and damage to many of Hawai‘i’s historic and cultural sites.”
Even though the National Weather Service issued high wind watch and red flag warnings and cautioned both Maui Electric and Hawaiian Electric Co. that “damaging winds could knock down power lines and that any fires that developed would likely spread quickly,” the defendants “inexcusably kept their power lines energized during the forecasted high-fire danger conditions,” the complaint adds.
The Pacific Disaster Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week estimated that approximately 2,200 structures were damaged and destroyed because of the wildfires, and the costs to rebuild is anticipated to exceed $5.5 billion, as reported
. Eighty-six percent of the 2,719 exposed structures were classified as residential. Potential needs include nearly 52,000 square feet of shelter for a sheltered population of 4,500 with 9,000 ready-to-eat meals per day.
Earlier this afternoon, HEI announced
that it drew $170 million and Hawaiian Electric drew $200 million from their existing unsecured credit facilities. HEI and Hawaiian Electric plan to invest the proceeds in highly liquid short-term investments. In addition, HEI will suspend its quarterly cash dividend beginning the third quarter of 2023, according to the company’s latest 8-K filing
. Prior to the fires, HEI was “contractually obligated” to pay a cash dividend of $0.36 per share starting Sept 8.