Ten years ago, fires swept San Diego County. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and an investigative body of the California Public Utilities Commission agreed that San Diego Gas & Electric's negligence was responsible for two of the fires and partly responsible for the third.
SDG&E tried to pass the uninsured costs ($379 million) to ratepayers. That attempt failed the first time, but now SDG&E is back, trying to collect the money. Two other investor-owned utilities, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, are lobbying the public utilities commission on SDG&E's behalf.
It's pretty obvious why Edison and PG&E are supporting SDG&E, says Sen. Jerry Hill of the13th state senate district. Those two utilities want to pass along similar costs to their ratepayers, says Hill in a letter he sent this week to the commission. Hill fought the CPUC's attempt to be easy on PG&E after it caused the destructive 2010 gas explosion in San Bruno, which is in his district.
In the letter, Hill points out that two CPUC administrative law judges have said that the $379 million can't be passed on to SDG&E ratepayers. But the commission itself has delayed a decision to overrule the administrative law judges four times, as consumers have complained bitterly of the commission's obsessive concern for utility profits at the expense of ratepayers. The vote has not yet taken place.
Hill says that in coming months he will be introducing "legislation to ensure that unreasonable or unsafe activities by utilities do not result in ratepayers bearing the expense."