It is disputed whether San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDGE’s) actions caused the damage from the 2007 fires causing BILLIONS in damage, but the fact they are still trying to pass some of the charges onto the people (ratepayers), nearly 10 years after the incident is unacceptable because SDGE’s actions both prior to and after the wildfires were questionable and it has been so long since the fires occurred.
There is a hearing on January 9th in Escondido at the California Center for the Arts for those interested in fighting against the rate increase proposal. You can also write a letter in opposition using the information on the notice.
The focus has been on what actions SDGE could have taken to prevent the fires from happening in the first place, such as trimming trees, monitoring, and maintaining power lines better/more often. And the Public Utilities Commission has already concluded in investigations that SDGE had previously not taken the proper precautions and essentially enabled fires to happen because of poor maintenance.
SDGE disputes this claim and instead blames the damage on Acts of God. saying that the Santa Ana winds combined with natural conditions created an unavoidable situation. Considering the voluminous number of lawsuits and settlements related to the issue and SDGE’s previous admission as well as apology for not being forthcoming with information related to the fire in a timely manner, SDGE’s claim seems suspicious.
Either SDGE’s shareholders or the ratepayers will be charged for the damage. Again, SDGE has settled lawsuits which have avoided the company from being definitively blamed for causing the fires. the problem has been that because of the lawsuit settlement, much of the information related to the specific incident(s) causing the fire are simply unavailable. It should be required that in order for ratepayers to be charged even a single penny for the resultant damage, there needs to be proper disclosure of ALL information from SDGE related to the 2007 wildfires – including such information obtained during settlement negotiations which might demonstrate their ultimate responsibility as well as their actions immediately after the event.
Specifically, SDGE has asked for citizens to be held responsible for footing 90% of the $379 Million bill through rate changes which are to take place over a period of 6-10 years while their shareholders pay only 10% of the remaining bill. This is simply unacceptable.
It is unjust to ask the people to foot the bill if SDGE did not take adequate measures to protect utility lines from causing fires. Concern for potential wildfires are a reason why it is standard practice for utility companies to cut back trees and clear brush from power lines.
Here are a few video examples on how a tree on power lines can cause a fire:
SDGE has already chanced many of it’s practices as a direct result of the 2007 fire and settlements, however, this is not enough. Why should the people bail SDGE out for potentially substandard practices? What better way to get SDGE to be more responsible with their utility and maintenance than to hit them in the pocketbook? It’s time for SDGE to own up to it’s responsibility on this matter and have their shareholders foot the remainder of the bill.
(Featured photo from: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)