Eva Knott 4:04 a.m., May 23
San Diego wins one
CPUC thumbs down SDGE's attempt to get customers to pay 2007 fire costs
Quick action by irate San Diegans was almost certainly a factor in today's (Dec. 20) decision by the commissioners of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to turn down San Diego Gas & Electric's attempt to get ratepayers to cough up for uninsured costs of the 2007 fires, for which the local utility has been held responsible. On Sunday, Diane Conklin of Mussey Grade Road Alliance discovered that the CPUC has a subscription list, supposedly for minor changes in documents. She signed up. So yesterday, she learned that Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon, the day before the hearing had made a huge but cleverly concealed change in his proposal that permitted SDGE to get customers to pay for the uninsured 2007 costs. She quickly complained; Mike Aguirre, who was also fighting the proposal, stated last night, as reported on this blog, that this action was a blatant violation of the Brown Act, which mandates open meetings. All hell broke loose in San Diego media today (Dec. 20), following the Reader's coverage last night and a press conference today by Utility Consumers' Action Network and Aguirre. Many media covered the story and the CPUC was besieged with telephone calls, at Conklin's urging.
At today's meeting, Simon was forced to withdraw his altered motion because of Brown Act violations. Then the commissioners voted unanimously to turn down SDGE's bid, and stated that for the utility to recover its funds under the so-called Z factor -- a procedure to handle unanticipated events -- San Diego Gas would have to show it had no responsibility for the fires. But a division of the CPUC has already ruled that SDGE was responsible for those fires.
SDGE's parent, Sempra Energy, has been telling shareholders that it expected ratepayers would be forced to pick up the tab for the uninsured costs.