By Karen Brainard
A Ramona watchdog group is concerned that several steps recently taken by state utility regulators are signs that they will allow San Diego Gas & Electric to recoup uninsured costs from the 2007 wildfires from ratepayers.
Diane Conklin, spokesperson for Ramona’s Mussey Grade Road Alliance (MGRA), calls on Ramonans to contact California Public Utility commissioners and tell them to reject SDG&E’s request.
Conklin and her husband, Joseph Mitchell, attended an All-Party meeting with the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) on Nov. 26, along with other ratepayer advocacy groups and SDG&E officials. That meeting was set just three days before the CPUC was scheduled to vote on SDG&E’s application for a wildfire expense balancing account (WEBA) to record uninsured costs from the 2007 wildfires and seek to recover those costs through increased utility rates.
The vote, however, was delayed and is expected to be on the CPUC’s Dec. 20 agenda.
The commissioners were to consider two separate decisions: Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey’s recommendation to deny SDG&E’s request—endorsed by the Mussey Grade Road Alliance, and Commissioner Timothy Simon’s alternate decision to reject the request for the 2007 costs, but leave open the possibility of recovering future uninsured wildfire costs under certain conditions.
Conklin fears that Simon will suggest a new recommendation and the MGRA will not have time to review and respond to it.
“We think 2007 (wildfire costs) might be put back in and that’s what concerns us,” she said.
What those uninsured expenses will be have not been determined, but could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, advocacy groups estimate. SDG&E did not return a phone call from the
Conklin said she was surprised that one of the commissioners sent, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, a list of questions to the MGRA regarding Simon’s alternate decision and wanted responses for the Nov. 26 meeting. Conklin said no questions focused on Bushey’s proposed decision.
“We were shocked at the fact they sent these questions out, ” she said.
If SDG&E is allowed to create a wildfire expense account, Conklin said, “The commission would be creating a condition where monopoly SDG&E doesn’t have to pay.”
Allowing a utility to recover uninsured costs through increased rates, could lead to less safety and maintenance of equipment, Conklin maintains.
The MGRA spokesperson also said no notes were recorded at the meeting.
According to a spokesperson for the CPUC, All-Party meetings are not transcribed because they do not become part of the record and should not be referred to in the decision of the commissioners.
Conklin also said she believes the delayed vote will give SDG&E additional time to lobby commissioners.
The MGRA spokesperson said Ramona ratepayers should contact commissioners and tell them to vote for Bushey’s proposed decision to deny SDG&E’s request “for our safety in the future.”
Contact information for the commissioners is at cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/aboutus/commissioners or call 800-848-5580.