Oregon’s utility regulator this week said it would investigate a petition by PacifiCorp to limit its liability from future wildfire-related lawsuits, delaying a decision on the power provider’s request by as long as nine months.
In October, the Berkshire Hathaway Energy BRKa.N subsidiary asked regulators in five of the six states it serves to limit damages tied to future utility-caused wildfires.
That request came four months after an Oregon jury found PacifiCorp must pay at least $87 million in compensatory and punitive damages for four wildfires that damaged more than 2,400 properties over Labor Day in 2020.
Putting a limitation on liability will allow it to ensure reasonable rates and finance future expenditures, PacifiCorp said in its October filing.
On Tuesday, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) approved a staff recommendation submitted on Nov. 17 to suspend PacifiCorp’s request for up to nine months for an investigation.
The proposed modifications have “significant policy implications as well as legal issues” and cannot be adequately investigated by the effective date of Nov. 29, 2023, proposed by PacifiCorp, OPUC staff said in the recommendation.
The Portland-based utility serves 2 million customers in Oregon, Washington, California, Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.
PacifiCorp’s mounting litigation costs dampened third-quarter profits of parent company Berkshire Hathaway’s energy business.
(Reporting by Nicole Jao; Editing by Sonali Paul)
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