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California utility to pay $12M over massive 2011 blackout; settlement is 2nd in power loss

EL CENTRO, Calif. - The customer-owned electric utility serving Southern California's Imperial Valley will pay a $12 million civil penalty in a vast power outage three years ago.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced the settlement with the Imperial Irrigation District on Thursday, U-T San Diego reported (http://bit.ly/1sEZ4i9 ).

The district will pay $3 million to the U.S. Treasury and invest an additional $9 million in upgrades to the local electrical grid. It also agreed to submit to further compliance monitoring.

"The civil penalty amount reflects credit for IID's full co-operation during the course of the investigation as well as credits for avoiding a trial-type hearing and having an effective compliance program," the settlement order stated.

The settlement is the second in connection with the 2011 blackout that left 2.7 million homes and businesses without power in Southern California, Arizona and Tijuana, Mexico. Regulators last month approved a $3.25 million penalty against the Phoenix-based utility Arizona Public Service, including $1.25 million that will go toward improvements to the electrical grid.

A botched maintenance procedure at a transmission switch yard outside Yuma, Arizona, led to the blackout on a hot September day amid heavy power demands. Over an 11-minute period, the power failure cascaded to the California coast, leaving the entire San Diego area without power, forcing schools and businesses to close and creating massive traffic jams as drivers navigated without traffic signals or street lights.

The Imperial Irrigation District oversees 1,400 miles of transmission lines and 26 substations in the Imperial and Coachella valleys, according to the newspaper.

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Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com

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