Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Utilities Commission Denies SDG&E's Power Cutoff Plan -- Leaving an Out
The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today (Sept. 10) turned down San Diego Gas & Electric's plan to shut off power to backcountry residents during periods of high fire danger, and also to dodge liability for the consequences of the shutoff. However, the commission said that SDG&E can submit a new plan that would address some of the PUC's concerns. Commissioner Timothy Simon studied the matter, which was overwhelmingly opposed by residents of the area, hospitals, schools, and other institutions. Opponents said that in a power curtailment, residents would use lanterns, candles, portable generators and the like that would present as much of a fire risk as the utility lines. SDG&E wants no liability from the use of these alternatives. Opponents argue that it is SDG&E's responsibility to make sure that utility lines are not threatened by trees that could fall on them, sparking fires. By denying SDG&E's plan without prejudice, the PUC adopted the main points of Simon's study. In short, this means that rejoicing in the backcountry may be premature. SDG&E will be back. "This proposal will remain open," said Simon's report.