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The Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA) application by SDG&E, PG&E and SCE will proceed to a meet-&-confer for all parties at a "mutually convenient date in April" according to a recent SCE update filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

The investor owned utilities (IOUs) are seeking to pass all wildfire legal and other expenses to customers because insurers are no longer willing to cover the catastrophic wildfire damage caused by utility equipment. The utilities argue that even if utility employees are negligent, wildfires are the reasonable result of power transmission by overhead power lines, and that even if wildfires are not caused by the utilities, the dangerous consequences of utility operations are an ordinary cost of doing business, so that CPUC must order the creation of the WEBA accounts. The IOUs flatly state that CPUC has a constitutional duty to permit the IOUs to bill consumers for all uninsured wildfire legal and other costs.

CPUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates opposes the WEBA application because there is no cap on the amount that consumers must pay to cover IOU uninsured wildfire liabilities. Before 2007, IOUs were able to obtain billions in insurance, but the catastrophic damage from the 2007 wildfire season forced insurers to avoid offering full coverage or leave the market altogether.

Later testimony by SDG&E employees at the request of CPUC's consumer protection branch only highlighted the inherent danger of inadequate inspection and monitoring programs that failed to anticipate the wildfire events. SDG&E's Don Akau testified that his Vegetation Management Program failed to pass along information from a contract "pre-inspector" regarding the same tree that apparently was the cause of one 2007 wildfire.

If approved by CPUC, current IOU WEBA balances from recent wildfires not otherwise covered by corporate utility insurers will be paid off by consumers for years to come. Future uninsured wildfire legal expenses will increase customers' liability for continued payment until WEBA is zeroed out.

One of the applicant IOUs, PG&E, is seeking to amend the California Constitution to prevent competition by cities wanting to create their own municipal power utilities (http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_14719397).


Filing Name: Application of San Diego Gas & Electric Company (U902M), Southern California Edison Company (U338E), Southern California Gas Company (U904G) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (U39M) for Authority to Establish a Wildfire Expense Balancing Account to Record for Future Recovery Wildfire-Related Costs.

CPUC Number: A.09-08-020

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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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