Ratepayers Fear SDG&E End-Run On '07 Fire Costs
Consumer advocates are worried that California regulators may be quietly finding a way to allow San Diego Gas & Electric to recoup its uninsured 2007 wildfire costs from customers. They point to a delay in a scheduled vote on the matter and an off-the-record meeting held last week.
California Public Utility Commissioners summoned ratepayer representatives and SDG&E executives last week for the off-the-record meeting.
Commissioner Timothy Simon in October recommended a rejection of SDG&E's bid to have ratepayers cover hundreds of millions of dollars in uninsured fire losses from 2007. But Simon allowed for ratepayers to be charged for future costs under certain circumstances.
Last week, regulators directed Simon to make certain changes to his recommendation. Ratepayer advocates worry the meeting was a pretext and the changes may be more expansive to favor SDG&E. They also say commissioners focused no attention on another opinion, written by an administrative law judge, that rebuffed customer reimbursement of both past and future uninsured wildfire costs.
Diane Conklin of the East County watchdog group Mussey Grade Road Alliance said it’s as if commissioners had not read the three years of filings in the case.
“It would be a miscarriage of justice if the commissioners do not inform themselves of the official record on the proceeding, that is where the arguments have been made," Conklin said. "That is where they have been countered.”
Commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the public was notified of the meeting and it followed regulatory rules. But Conklin countered that it was outside the official record. Conklin added that the weeks leading up to the December 20 vote are especially crucial because of what she calls heavy lobbying by SDG&E.
“They have lobbyists living practically across the street from the CPUC," Conklin said. "There’s a tremendous amount of pressure exuded.”
SDG&E spokeswoman Stephanie Donovan said everyone involved in the case has the same opportunity to share their concerns with commissioners.