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Judges Say SDG&E Shouldn’t Raise Rates To Cover Fire Costs

Flames from the Witch Creek fire light up the early Friday morning sky in nor...

Photo by Jon Vidar / Associated Press

Above: Flames from the Witch Creek fire light up the early Friday morning sky in northern San Diego County, Oct. 26, 2007.

The proposed decision by two administrative law judges says the San Diego utility should not charge ratepayers for damages caused by 2007 fires.

San Diego Gas & Electric says it will "vigorously challenge" a proposed decision that could prevent it from boosting consumer rates to help pay for damage caused by the wildfires of 2007.

An investigation found that three wildfires that ripped through San Diego County in 2007 were ignited by SDG&E facilities. The San Diego-based utility company was the target of many lawsuits by homeowners and others who suffered damage.

SDG&E applied to the California Public Utilities Commission to collect $379 million from ratepayers to help cover the costs. But administrative law judges S. Pat Tsen and Sasha Goldberg have ruled SDG&E should not collect that money from ratepayers because they did not act "prudently" in its management of facilities linked to the fires.

Ratepayer advocates praised the proposed decision.

RELATED: SDG&E Seeks $379 Million From Ratepayers In 2007 Wildfire Costs

“We support the judges’ proposed decision which holds SDG&E accountable for its role in the devastating 2007 fires," said Elizabeth Echols, director of the Office of Ratepayer Advocate, a division of the CPUC.

The utility company disagreed with the judges' ruling.

“We design, operate and maintain our system at or above standards, and despite having a safe system, the wildfires that occurred were due to circumstances beyond SDG&E’s control," the company said in a written statement.

The legal decision was "proposed," meaning the CPUC must vote to accept it before it can be legally binding.

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