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SDG&E Seek Rate Payer Funds


Last updated 11/14/2016 at 2:16pm

SDG&E is seeking to recover $379 million for legal fees and other costs resulting from three 2007 wildfires from ratepayers, a decision which would add an additional $1.67 a month to each residential bill for six years.

The California Public Utilities Commission are fighting the plan through 49 pages of testimony filed with state regulators.“SDG&E’s actions in regards to the 2007 Witch, Guejito and Rice fires were not those of a prudent manager,” said the office, an independent division within the state utilities commission. SDG&E defended the plan to assign the remaining fire expenses to customers, by stating “The costs for liabilities, including losses not covered by insurance or settlement claims, are ordinarily approved for inclusion in a utility’s rates”.

More than $2 billion of costs for settlements and other outlays associated with the fires have been incurred. Liability insurance coverage offset $1.1 billion of those expenses, and the utility received payments from other implicated businesses, including Cox Communications, a tree trimming company and an electrical contractor. Five days of public hearings are scheduled for early next year to decide who is responsible for the remaining balance.

Utility lawyers argued that even though investigators concluded later that SDG&E power lines started the Witch, Guejito and Rice fires, the company should be allowed to recover its costs from ratepayers. The Witch Fire was first reported outside Santa Ysabel, hundreds of thousands of acres were ablaze in San Diego County and 500,000 people were forced to evacuate. The cause of the fire was found to be powerlines in the area, when heavy Santa Ana winds pushed power lines into tree branches, igniting the vegetation.

After the hearings in late January, a proposed decision from the judge is expected to be issued by June.

Regardless of which way that decision goes, a majority of commissioners would need to approve the ruling before the $379 million could be added to customers’ bills.

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