Maui County Suing Hawaii Electric Company

    Maui County Suing Hawaii Electric Company
    Last updated Aug 25, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • On Thursday, Maui County filed suit against Hawaiian Electric Company and its local subsidiaries for failing to shut down the county’s power despite extreme winds and dry conditions — connecting the company’s negligence to this month’s devastating wildfires.
    • The lawsuit claims Hawaiian Electric Company (known as "HECO") “inexcusably kept their power lines energized,” even though the National Weather Service disseminated a high wind watch and fire danger warning.
    • The National Weather Service’s warnings were issued Aug. 7, one day before the wildfires started. The lawsuit alleges the downed, energized power lines “ignited dry fuel such as grass and brush, causing the fires."
    • An official cause of the fires has not been established while HECO investigates. HECO reportedly doesn’t have the same shutoff programs as other states.
    • HECO’s stock price has plummeted, and it announced it will not issue a third-quarter dividend to free up funds. Meanwhile, Finch downgraded HECO’s credit rating to junk status because it faces more than $3.8B in potential liability.
    • More than 115 people died in the town of Lahaina, while hundreds more remain unaccounted for. The estimated damage is around $5B, with more than 3K acres and 2.2K structures destroyed in the US’s deadliest fire in more than a century.


    Narrative A

    Instead of acting to save lives, HECO sat by as its utility poles got knocked down and Lahaina burned. The lack of a formal shutoff program is an excuse that doesn’t withstand the evidence. HECO should be held accountable.

    Narrative B

    HECO used sound logic when it didn’t completely shut down Maui’s power. Hawaii needed electricity for firefighters and first responders to do their jobs. A power shutdown could have made the situation worse, and blaming one party for a complex problem does nothing to improve the situation. More context is needed here.

    Nerd narrative

    There is a 65% chance that Hawaiian Electric Company will file for bankruptcy before 2025, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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