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San Diego Business Owner Suing CPUC Over Its Handling Of SDG&E’s Request To Bill Ratepayers

A sign on SDG&E's headquarters appears in this undated photo.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: A sign on SDG&E's headquarters appears in this undated photo.

Ruth Hendricks, owner of "The Huddle" restaurant in San Diego, is suing the California Public Utilities Commission over its handling of San Diego Gas & Electric’s request to bill customers $379 million for the 2007 wildfires.

A San Diego business owner sued the California Public Utilities Commission this week over its handling of San Diego Gas & Electric’s request to bill customers $379 million for the 2007 wildfires.

In papers filed in federal court this week, Ruth Hendricks, owner of "The Huddle" restaurant in San Diego, alleged the CPUC violated her due process rights.

In 2012, the CPUC ruled that any future attempt by SDG&E to charge customers for the 2007 wildfire costs would be subject to a “reasonableness review.”

RELATED: SDG&E Lobbies Regulators To Reject Judges’ Decision On 2007 Wildfire Reimbursement

That review happened this year after SDG&E renewed its efforts to get reimbursement from ratepayers.

Hendricks challenged SDG&E’s request and became a party in the proceeding.

After evidence was presented, administrative law judges S. Pat Tsen and Sasha Goldberg issued a preliminary decision. They concluded that the company should not be allowed to recoup the fire costs from customers because SDG&E had not “reasonably” managed its facilities prior to the fires.

The CPUC twice postponed a vote on the judges’ decision.

RELATED: State Regulators To Consider SDG&E’s ‘07 Wildfire Cost Reimbursement Thursday

Hendricks’ lawyers characterized the delays as deliberate and improper.

“The CPUC created the delay so as to provide an opportunity for SDG&E and its utilities monopoly kin, PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) and SCE (Southern California Edison), neither who had been a party in the proceeding’s evidentiary hearings to meet privately with the commissioners and lobby against the ALJ’s proposed decision,” wrote consumer lawyers Mike Aguirre and Mia Severson in the filing.

As a result, they contend Hendricks’ due process rights were breached.

The CPUC did not respond to a request for comment.

SDG&E said, “Since this complaint is against the CPUC, SDG&E will not weigh in on the matter."

The CPUC is set to decide on the issue Thursday.

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Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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