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SDG&E again asks for 2007 fire cost reimbursement

Utility gets tongue-lashing from taxpayers at meeting

Downtown San Diego skyline during the 2007 wildfires
Downtown San Diego skyline during the 2007 wildfires

San Diego Gas & Electric in 2012 tried to get ratepayers to pick up the tab for uninsured costs of the 2007 fires, for which a unit of the California Public Utilities Commission blamed SDG&E's negligence. A utilities commissioner snuck in a phrase sticking the ratepayers with the cost, buried in a document having nothing to do with the 2007 fires. Two local activists caught the ruse, and an embarrassed commission had to turn down the request. A former utilities commission official chuckled and told me that they would be back.

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Sure enough, this year, SDG&E is back, asking for ratepayers to pick up $379 million of the uninsured costs. That comes to $280 a household, says Diane Conklin of the Mussey Grade Alliance.

This afternoon (January 9), the utilities commission held a hearing on the question at the California Center for the Arts conference center in Escondido. More than 110 ratepayers from Ramona, Escondido, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Fallbrook, and Rancho Bernardo gave SDG&E a tongue-lashing.

They stressed that the utility caused the fires and there was no way ratepayers should cough up for management negligence. The people cited the concept of "moral hazard" — if the utility gets away with such an egregious cost-shifting, it won't be vigilant in the future, knowing the utilities commission will have ratepayers bail it out.

The people mentioned that some residents did not get 100 percent recovery and are now paying expensive insurance premiums, and "it's unconscionable that the utility is back," trying to pick ratepayers' pockets again, after being turned down in 2012, says Conklin. There is a second meeting this evening.

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Downtown San Diego skyline during the 2007 wildfires
Downtown San Diego skyline during the 2007 wildfires

San Diego Gas & Electric in 2012 tried to get ratepayers to pick up the tab for uninsured costs of the 2007 fires, for which a unit of the California Public Utilities Commission blamed SDG&E's negligence. A utilities commissioner snuck in a phrase sticking the ratepayers with the cost, buried in a document having nothing to do with the 2007 fires. Two local activists caught the ruse, and an embarrassed commission had to turn down the request. A former utilities commission official chuckled and told me that they would be back.

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Sure enough, this year, SDG&E is back, asking for ratepayers to pick up $379 million of the uninsured costs. That comes to $280 a household, says Diane Conklin of the Mussey Grade Alliance.

This afternoon (January 9), the utilities commission held a hearing on the question at the California Center for the Arts conference center in Escondido. More than 110 ratepayers from Ramona, Escondido, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Fallbrook, and Rancho Bernardo gave SDG&E a tongue-lashing.

They stressed that the utility caused the fires and there was no way ratepayers should cough up for management negligence. The people cited the concept of "moral hazard" — if the utility gets away with such an egregious cost-shifting, it won't be vigilant in the future, knowing the utilities commission will have ratepayers bail it out.

The people mentioned that some residents did not get 100 percent recovery and are now paying expensive insurance premiums, and "it's unconscionable that the utility is back," trying to pick ratepayers' pockets again, after being turned down in 2012, says Conklin. There is a second meeting this evening.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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