Ken Harrison 10:30 a.m., Dec. 10
Reducing SDG&E Wildfire Liability = Another Stealth Rate Increase?
Onell Soto reports this morning in the business news of our distinguished daily paper that mediation in SDG&E's previously denied CPUC application to cut power in case of fire threats is "working for critics, SDG&E."
According to Soto, "It's a new stage in the mediation process, which surprised some participants simply by bringing SDG&E officials together with people who saw its shut-off plan as selfish folly that risked lives."
The article ends: "The company (SDG&E) is looking for ways to reduce its legal liability and prevent fires from getting out of control. It was forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle claims when its lines were implicated in three big 2007 wildfires."
SDG&E has apparently gone through some effort to keep quiet one way it plans to reduce its liability without getting all of its power lines underground before 2063: the WEBA application, now set for approval by the California Public Utilities Commission within the next two months, all without public hearings (see SDG&E's WEBA application A. 09-08-020 and related supporting testimony without public hearing).
WEBA (short for Wildfire Expense Balancing Account) will be SDG&E's dumping ground for legal expenses resulting from wildfire claims that SDG&E states are a necessary part of the business of electricity transmission. This makes perfect sense as long as the power lines are not yet underground.
According to the application, all wildfire expenses (legal or otherwise) that are not paid off by wildfire insurance will be passed along to SDG&E ratepayers. The pass-through of wildfire costs will be made partially each month until the balance is paid off.
Debra Reed, who testified as part of the WEBA application, was SDG&E CEO until a Union-Tribune interview was published where she defended SDG&E's shut-off position that resulted in the state-mandated mediation.