Utility to pay $12M for 2011 Southwest blackout

A California electric utility has agreed to pay $12 million to settle federal claims arising from a 2011 blackout that hit about 7 million people in southern California, Arizona and Mexico.

Under an agreement reached Thursday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Imperial Irrigation District will pay $3 million to the U.S. Treasury and $9 million for reliability improvements that go beyond what is required, U-T San Diego reported.

FERC alleged that the utility violated reliability regulations in its contingency plans and the actions it took before the blackout in September 2011.

“IID also has a prior history of violations of the reliability standards, including some of the same standards found to be violated in this investigation," FERC wrote in the settlement order. “The civil penalty amount reflects credit for IID’s full cooperation during the course of the investigation as well as credits for avoiding a trial-type hearing and having an effective compliance program.”

FERC’s investigation blamed a botched maintenance operation near Yuma, Ariz., for the blackout. It spread through much of southern California, and customers did not get full power back for 11 hours.

It was the worst blackout in California’s history.

Last month, FERC charged Arizona Public Service a $3.25 million penalty for its role in the blackout.