Supreme Court Denies SPI Wildfire Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court has turned back an appeal on the largest federal fire settlement in history against Sierra Pacific Industries. The Anderson-based company had agreed to pay the huge settlement over the 2007 Moonlight Fire that burned 46,000 acres in the Plumas and Lassen National Forests. Cal-Fire determined that it was sparked by two bulldozer operators working at a Sierra Pacific logging site. In July of 2012, on the eve of trial, Sierra Pacific and its contractors agreed to pay $55-Million and to transfer ownership of 22,500 acres of land to the Forest Service. The settlement was valued at more than $122-Million, even though SPI claimed all along they weren’t responsible for starting the fire. A judge ruled in February of 2014 that Cal-Fire’s efforts to pin the blame for the fire on Sierra Pacific were corrupt and tainted. She said Cal-Fire withheld documents for months, destroyed evidence and engaged in a campaign of misdirection. She ordered the agency to pay more than 30-Million Dollars in penalties and legal fees. 8 months later, Sierra Pacific filed court papers accusing prosecutors of misconduct and unethical behavior in prosecuting the civil suit and said the entire federal settlement should be overturned. 6 months after that a different judge issued a blistering refusal of Sierra Pacific’s motion, and threw out the case against Cal-Fire as well. SPI appealed and last July the case was heard by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a unanimous ruling, the court said that not only was there no evidence of fraud on the part of the government, but even if there was fraud, that’s all moot following the settlement agreement because that effectively closed the book on any future legal action. Although the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, SPI vows to continue its fight.


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