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Key State Commissioner Reverses Himself, Urges Customers Pay For SDG&E’s ‘07 Fire Costs

Photo by Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Above: The Witch Fire, which started outside of Ramona in 2007, burned hundreds of structures and forced thousands of evacuations.

In an about-face, a state regulator recommended late yesterday that customers pick up the tab for San Diego Gas & Electric's uninsured costs for the 2007 wildfires.

In an about-face, a state regulator recommended late yesterday that customers pick up the tab for San Diego Gas & Electric's uninsured costs for the 2007 wildfires. The revised opinion confirms ratepayers' worst suspicions and represents a potential victory for SDG&E whose lines ignited the fires that killed two people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

In October, California Public Utilities Commissioner Timothy Simon rejected the '07 fire reimbursement for SDG&E, but yesterday, in an 11th hour revision to that opinion, Simon backtracked and recommended that regulators allow SDG&E to recoup the bulk of those costs from customers instead of shareholders. The company expects the costs to exceed $1 billion.

For weeks, ratepayer advocates publicly expressed dismay at a flurry of private meetings between SDG&E and state regulators. They believe Simon's reversal are a result of intense, closed-door lobbying by SDG&E.

Regulators are scheduled to vote on Simon's latest opinion this morning. Ratepayer groups say any vote at this point violates their due process because of the way the changes were made and the timing. If regulators vote anyway, one ratepayer group predicted "San Diegans will revolt."

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