GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) crews dispose of burnt utility poles and erect new ones, Oct. 19, on Ainakea Street in Lahaina, in the aftermath of the Aug. 8 wildfires. Hawaiian Electric has shared a glimpse of expenses from the Aug. 8 Maui wildfires while vowing to vigorously contest litigation blaming the company for the disaster.
Hawaiian Electric has shared a glimpse of expenses from the Aug. 8 Maui wildfires while vowing to vigorously contest litigation blaming the company for the disaster.
The utility and its parent disclosed in a recent financial report that their fire-related expenses totaled $20.4 million through the end of September.
Those costs, which included $10.8 million in legal expenses, were a primary factor in the profit of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. falling 34% to $41.6 million in the three months ended Sept. 30 from $62.6 million in the same quarter of 2022.
HEI and Hawaiian Electric released the financial report Thursday, and company officials said they are focused on recovery amid strong fundamentals of their business and a stockpile of cash while a torrent of litigation is pending mainly over the fire in Lahaina that killed at least 99 people and caused an estimated $5.6 billion in damage.
“Our hearts are with the people of Maui, and we remain committed to supporting the recovery and rebuild effort,” Scott Seu, HEI president and CEO, said in a statement with the earnings announcement. “We have a long road ahead as we work towards recovery and restoration, and we can only be successful by working closely together as a community.”
During a conference call with stock analysts Thursday, Seu said Hawaiian Electric is reexamining and updating near- and long-term spending plans to reduce risks of extreme weather events. Part of this effort includes spending $190 million, half from the federal government, on a 2022 proposal that still awaits a decision by the state Public Utilities Commission.
Seu also told analysts that as of Nov. 7 there have been 64 lawsuits filed against Hawaiian Electric by plaintiffs claiming losses related to the Aug. 8 disaster, including a fire in Upcountry Maui that destroyed 19 homes.
One of the 64 cases was filed by Maui County, and many cases also name other defendants that include Maui County, the state and private landowners.
“We will vigorously defend the litigation, and we intend to contest both causation and negligence,” Seu said.
Seu also indicated that the company will file counterclaims against other defendants, and noted that a current deadline to do that is Jan. 19.