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Xcel Energy May Have Triggered Wildfires in Texas

Xcel Energy’s facilities in Texas may have been the cause of a spree of wildfires that ripped through the state.

Excel, based in Minneapolis, an electric utility and natural gas delivery company, said it very well may be responsible for igniting the recent Smokehouse Creek fire—the largest wildfire in the state’s history.

The Smokehouse Creek wildfire began February 26, incinerating over a million acres, destroying more than 500 homes, and killing two before spilling into neighboring Oklahoma. The wildfires quickly spread after ignition thanks to the high winds and low humidity. Texas A&M Forest Service has said that its investigators have concluded that the fires were ignited by power lines.

One woman whose home was destroyed in the fire filed a lawsuit against Xcel Energy, its subsidiary Southwestern Public Service and contractor, alleging that an improperly maintained power pole fell and triggered the fire. Xcel Energy has been cooperating with authorities investigating the wildfires, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Xcel, for its part, has denied that it behaved negligently in maintaining and operating its infrastructure. The company did say, however, that it will review and respond to claims expeditiously. Excel did not specify how its facilities were involved in the ignition.

“Based on currently available information, Xcel Energy acknowledges that its equipment appears to have been involved in an ignition of the Smokehouse Creek fire,” the company said.

Excel’s stock was still trading up by 1.35% on Thursday afternoon, although it has been trading significantly down since the wildfires, as traders attempt to avoid financial ruin after previous electric companies have found themselves on the end of a very large hook for their role in past wildfires. This would include PG&E, which, as part of its plan to exit bankruptcy, agreed to pay more than $25 billion to compensate for wildfire losses.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com


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