Water district joins coalition filing to shut down shut-off plan

An informal coalition of groups opposed to San Diego Gas & Electric’s intentions to shut off power during high risk fire conditions has filed a motion with the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to stop SDG&E from implementing the plan on Sept. 1.

The motion, seeking a temporary restraining order against the utility, was brought by six water districts, including Ramona, the San Diego County Schools, disability rights advocates and UCAN (Utility Consumers’ Action Network).  It says that SDG&E should not be allowed to shut off power before the PUC has ruled on the matter.

“SDG&E does not have the authority to unilaterally shut off power when the weather is simply hot, dry and windy,” the motion says. And it criticizes the utility for setting its five weather conditions that would trigger shut-offs “without consultation or approval from CalFire.”

The current schedule calls for a ruling on the plan by the full PUC at a meeting on Sept. 10, which means that PUC administrative law judge Timothy Kenney will have to issue his proposed decision no later than Aug. 11 to allow for a 30-day comment period.

Citing the ‘health and safety risks’ that would be created by deliberately shutting off the power, the motion also calls for the PUC to implement “mitigation measures” and a response protocol” if it should approve SDG&E’s plan.

“To allow SDG&E’s plan to go forward without such mitigation measures or any safety protocols in place puts the lives of backcountry residents at risk,” the motion says. “If SDG&E shuts off power as it has indicated, lives will be lost.”

To date, the PUC has not responded to the motion, which was filed on Aug. 5 by the San Diego law firm of Best Best & Krieger.

The firm is also taking issue with the San Diego City Fire Fighters union’s decision to endorse the shut-off plan. In an Aug. 5 letter to Local 145 president, Frank DeClercq, attorneys Sophie Akins and Jennifer Haley criticize the union for refusing to meet with critics of the proposal.

“We are concerned that the Firefighters Union has adopted a public position supporting SDG&E’s shut-off plan without taking the time to speak with a single stakeholder opposed to SDG&E’s plan,” they said. “Given the important position of public trust occupied by the firefighters serving our communities, we are unclear why the Firefighters Union would deny the opportunity to make a fully informed decision” by not “meeting or speaking with us about our significant health and safety concerns” about the plan.

   
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