Xcel Energy equipment helped spark historic Texas wildfire

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Xcel Energy has admitted that its equipment is partially responsible for the massive Smokehouse Creek Fire in Texas. The fire has already burned more than 1 million acres across the Texas panhandle and destroyed 64 occupied homes.

According to the Strib:

Last week, Xcel said it was warned by a law firm representing property insurers that the utility could face liability in the wildfire, causing the company’s stock to fall nearly 9%. At least one lawsuit has since been filed, by a Texas homeowner whose house was destroyed.

Xcel was asked to preserve a fallen utility pole. On Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported that pole was marked with a “do not climb” sign before the wildfire began.

Xcel said Thursday it “acknowledges that its facilities appear to have been involved in an ignition of the Smokehouse Creek fire.”

But it disputed that it acted negligently in maintaining and operating its infrastructure. The company said anyone with property destroyed or livestock killed in the blaze should submit a claim to Xcel.

In California, lawmakers have questioned whether the pursuit of wind and solar energy has distracted utility companies from their core objective of safely providing reliable and affordable electricity. The connection was not lost on Jason Isaac, a former state representative in Texas and CEO of the American Energy Institute.

While it is unlikely that the fires would have been prevented if the company has spent less on wind and solar, it isn’t difficult to argue that Xcel’s priorities have likely been misplaced.