Supervisor opposes utility’s recovery cost plan

By Karen Brainard

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob has thrown in her support for a public hearing on a San Diego Gas and Electric proposal that she said could lead to customers paying millions for wildfire recovery costs.

SDG&E applied to the California Public Utilities Commission to establish a Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA) to record costs from the 2007 wildfires and any future fires. SDG&E Spokesperson Stephanie Donovan said the utiity would have to file a separate application seeking CPUC authorization before any balances in the account could be recovered in rates.

In a motion to the state utility commission, Ramona’s Mussey Grade Road Alliance requested a public participation hearing in San Diego on the WEBA application. SDG&E opposes such a hearing at this time.

Jacob stated in her letter to Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon of the CPUC that she strongly objects to San Diego Gas and Electric’s proposal to establish a balancing account which could cost ratepayers more than $450 million.

Stating that SDG&E violated Commision safety rules and was responsible for the Guejito, Witch and Rice fires, Jacob wrote: “If the CPUC were to approve the WEBA, public utilities would have a disincentive to properly maintain their infrastructure and the burden to ensure safe equipment would be thrust unfairly upon ratepayers.”

Jacob also said that as a matter of procedure and diligence the CPUC should hold a public hearing to hear from people who can speak from experience about the importance of policies that prioritize safety.

Although Mussey Grade Road Alliance Spokesperson Diane Conklin had requested that the CPUC rule on a public hearing by Feb. 1, she had not received a response from the Commission as of Feb. 6.

Related posts:

  1. Support grows for hearing on wildfire costs
  2. Woman wants hearing on SDG&E wildfire costs
  3. PUC revisits power shutoff plan
  4. Jacob opposes road funds going to transit
  5. SDG&E to go with shutoff plan before PUC ruling

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Posted by Staff on Feb 8 2012. Filed under Backcountry, News, Ramona. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “Supervisor opposes utility’s recovery cost plan”

  1. Harvey

    SDG&E and Sempra energy caused the fires then they should cover the costs of the fires not the consumers of the product.

  2. Mike

    MYTH: “SDG&E caused three fires in 2007, now they want customers to pick up the tab. That’s not fair.”

    FACT: No government agency or court has found that any improper actions by SDG&E caused the fires. The CPUC, at the recommendation of its staff (the Consumer Protection & Safety Division — CPSD), opened an investigation into the wildfires that ultimately resulted in a settlement with no findings of safety violations. Plaintiffs in civil litigation stemming from the fires have alleged negligence, but no court has made any findings in this regard. The extreme Santa Ana winds were a major factor in the ignition and spread of the wildfires.

    MYTH: SDG&E should take responsibility for the fires and Sempra Energy shareholders should be forced to pay for any excess expenses.

    FACT: SDG&E is required to serve all customers, including those in high fire risk areas, regardless of the potential risk. Court decisions have found that investor-owned utilities like SDG&E can be subjected to strict liability, which means that SDG&E might be on the hook in lawsuits even if there’s no fault or negligence on the utility’s part.

    The regulators in other contexts have said that costs reasonably incurred in the course of the utility’s fulfilling its obligation can be recovered through rates. On Feb. 1, the Federal Regulatory Commission approved SDG&E’s request to recover a portion of transmission-related wildfire costs. The CPUC did not object to the recovery.

  3. Truth Please

    Dear Mike,

    Here is the report by the CPUC, a government agency, that clearly concludes that SDG&E infrastructure caused the 2007 wildfires. It states in black and white that the utility was found in violation of state maintenence rules at the time of the fires.….

    SDG&E employs an army of public relations professionals to troll message boards and post misstatements that reflect glowingly of the company. You Mike, are one of them. Your information is 100% inaccrate and the public should know this.

  4. Mike

    My statement is 100% accurate. If you have a link to a verdict handed out and not an official "opinion" please post for all to see. Contrary to claims made by plaintiffs' attorneys, government reports, including the one issued by Cal Fire, are not admissible in a court of law as evidence of liability. This includes the "opinions" listed in the CPUC report that you linked.

    The lawsuits were filed against the utility after an initial state investigation determined that power lines were a factor in the three blazes. That probe, however, did not have a conclusive finding about the role the wires played.

    I know everyone is trying to place the blame on SDGE for the fires. But the fact is that hurricane force winds knock power lines down all over the country. It just so happens that the dry climate and vegetation in So Cal makes wildfires a year round issue. One could easily try to blame the firefighters for not putting the fire out soon enough, but that would be as silly as trying to place the blame on SDGE for mother nature's wind and dry climate.

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