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San Diego Gas & Electric said yesterday (Jan. 27) that it would not submit responses under oath to questions posed by attorney Mike Aguirre in the long-running hearings on whether the utility can make customers — not shareholders — pick up insurance costs from the 2007 wildfires, which regulators said were started by the company's negligence. SDG&E wants customers to pay for wildfire losses in excess of amounts covered by insurance. Aguirre had asked the administrative law judge if he could submit additional questions. She agreed (on a limited basis) but SDG&E, in objecting, claimed attorney-client privilege, among other things. Originally, the California Public Utilities Commission hearings were supposed to be on SDG&E's desire to shift certain insurance costs to customers in future fires. But at the last minute, in a one-sentence statement, SDG&E also said it wanted ratepayers to pick up the tab for certain 2007 insurance costs.

"Shareholders take the risk of mismanagement," says Aguirre. Under the law, ratepayers should only pick up the tab for "prudently incurred costs." He believes criminal and civil agencies should investigate the matter, particularly since SDG&E's parent, Sempra Energy, has already chalked up $463.9 million in regulatory assets because it expects it will get the CPUC's permission. Aguirre wants to know who told Sempra that SDG&E will be able to pass these costs to consumers.

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Comments

MURPHYJUNK Jan. 29, 2012 @ 9:58 a.m.

Sounds like a lot of ass covering going on after the fact.

Will we hear of deleted files next?

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Don Bauder Jan. 29, 2012 @ 1:35 p.m.

The CPUC does things in the dark, as this shameful case demonstrates. Deleted files may well be part of the modus operandi. It's possible, however, that new commissioners of the CPUC may clean up the scum. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 29, 2012 @ 3:18 p.m.

WAS THERE A SECRET SDGE/CPUC MEETING? Attorney Mike Aguirre has filed papers seeking more information on one of the key questions of this matter: was there a secret meeting between the company and the CPUC, and as a result of that meeting, did Sempra, SDGE's parent, feel confident to record $463.9 million as a regulatory asset even though it hadn't yet formally asked for it? Attorney Mike Aguirre wrote a letter yesterday (Jan. 28) to Timothy Simon, commissioner of the CPUC. Says Aguirre's letter: "An issue has arisen about whether you provided private assurances to SDGE officials that the Cal PUC would allow SDGE to raise rates of its customers to pay for liability costs from the 2007 fires in San Diego that were in excess of SDGE's insurance. Please provide any record of communications on the topic of SDGE's liability costs arising out of or connected to 2007 fires." Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Jan. 29, 2012 @ 7:13 p.m.

I am surprised at the scant commentary here. This is not some arcane matter that affects only a few. Everyone in SD County will have this show up in their electric bill from SDGE. It may not be more than "a few cents a month", but in aggregate and over time can turn into a bonanza for SDGE/Sempra. Our electric rates are already overloaded with various factors that make them among the highest in the nation. The high utility costs are just another factor that keeps productive businesses from locating here, and thus sending jobs to other states and countries.

If Californians want to get the economy moving again, the sky-high taxes, the high utility rates, and the regulatory environment need to be reformed. Is the Gov proposing anything along those lines? Uh, no, he wants higher taxes, limits on generating cheaper electricity, and has never seen a government regulation he doesn't like.

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Don Bauder Jan. 30, 2012 @ 8 a.m.

Visduh, I agree that this is very important, and deserves public scrutiny. But as far as I know, the Reader is the only publication following this scam now. SDGE and its parent, Sempra, MUST be forced to testify under oath on whether or not there was a secret meeting, the result of which was Sempra chalking up the $469.3 million as a regulatory asset even though there had been no filing asking for the money. CPUC commissioners (those on the commission at that time) should be put under oath, too. Now SDGE is asking for a blank check -- customers paying for part of its fire insurance in the future. That's dangerous.

This ignoring of a critically important matter reminds me of the local media coverage of the convention center. Again, as far as I know (and I admit that I don't read competing media as closely as I should), San Diego media are not covering THE main point: that convention centers are vastly overbuilt, and convention attendance is declining, nationwide. And that, as the Reader has shown, the convention center is prone to falsifying its statistics. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 30, 2012 @ 9:20 a.m.

MEA CULPA. Re my response to Visduh: I realize, without prompting from anyone, that KPBS has given coverage to SDGE's insurance caper, and in an excellent commentary in Voice of San Diego, Vlad Kogan mentioned both the San Diego convention center's phony statistics and the overbuilding of convention centers nationally. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Jan. 30, 2012 @ 10:23 a.m.

The one medium that SHOULD be covering this caper and the convention center scam and the staduim scam and . . . is the Manchester Mill (formerly the U-T.) When it weighs in on the latter two things mentioned, it is all in favor with no reservations whatsoever. While that paper has seen much or most of its clout in local matters and elections vanish in recent years, it does still influence some folks. While those who are still in its thrall should really know better, lack of attention from that paper when the news should be on the front page does have an effect.

How much influence does KPBS have? Are they reporting both on radio and on TV? What influence does VOSD have?

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Don Bauder Jan. 30, 2012 @ 1:16 p.m.

You are correct: the U-T should be covering both subjects, but to my knowledge hasn't. Statements by Lynch and Manchester that business coverage should be cheerleading, and the U-T should push for the Chargers stadium and attack those opposed, guaranteed that there will be no balanced coverage of these and related topics. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Jan. 30, 2012 @ 1:26 p.m.

I hope someone's keeping track of hirings, firings, and other departures from KPBS and VOSD . . .

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Don Bauder Jan. 30, 2012 @ 3:06 p.m.

While columnizing at the U-T, I opposed the Jack Murphy Stadium (now Qualcomm Stadium) makeover and 60,000 seat guarantee, as well as the Petco Park subsidy and land grab, and didn't get fired, although Herb Klein and others were trying very hard to have me sent to the guillotine. Best, Don Bauder

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strikeeagle1 April 15, 2012 @ 2:34 p.m.

Weighing in on SDG&E from an individual consumer's standpoint. The CPUC has basically helped power companies rape the small guy,(business / home owners) by allowing these discussions to be carried out. SDG&E makes more than enough revenue for Sempra Energy; it is absurd that these companies can pass the responsibility of its own mistakes to customers, with the help of the CPUC. I have been a resident of California for seven years and two months; not only are the practices of SDG&E fraudulant, the state of California has seen fit to allow the customers to pay for lapses of business ethic on the part of Sempra and it's holdings. SDG&E, in the end, will achieve their goal of sticking it to the consumer. There seems to be no accountability in our world today, this court case will serve as a constant reminder of what money can buy.

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