SDG&E to stick customers with cost of 2007 wildfires

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Killing two people and destroying more than 1,300 homes, the 2007 wildfires were devastating to the folks in East County. It was found that these fires were started by SDG&E equipment for the most part. Now, SDG&E is looking to the California Public Utilities Commission to collect from customers $494 million that insurance and other businesses implicated in the fires did not cover. It has received permission from federal regulators that oversee the transmission grid to bill customers for a portion of these expenses. It needs the permission of the Commission to collect the remaining $367 million.

This application due to be reviewed this fall is already being met with resistance, and with good cause. It is not the consumer’s responsibility to bear these costs. Nevertheless, the company is concerned that if it were turned down, corporate shareholders would face a $218 million after-tax charge against earnings. I am not concerned about the shareholders and it is a risk that they freely take and a loss that they just have to deal with.

SDG&E and its parent company believe they have a case with the Commission to saddle customers with the excess cost. This is typical for this monstrosity of a company that is continuously asking ratepayers to pay for its own blunders. We have seen it with the 2007 fires and with the disastrous San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station, also caused by the company, not the ratepayers.

SDG&E has avoided any trial that would point out its negligence or liability, therefore, giving them a better opportunity to pass along its losses to the customer. This case should go to trial before any action by the Commission is taken. There needs to be a negligence verdict that would prohibit the company from raking ratepayers for costs that it and its shareholders should bear.

It is good to see that San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob is taking a stand against these actions and finds it an atrocity to the people that suffered the most from these wildfires. I hope that she can help convince the rest of the Board of Supervisors to take a stand against this corporate giant that is always trying to shift the responsibility on to its consumers. They have no regards to the people it serves, other than its shareholders of course. But it wants to be able to tell the Commission that these costs are normal costs of doing business.

We not only need to stand up as a community to SDG&E, but we need the support of all of our local legislatures that represent East County. I realize that they deal mostly with state and federal issues, but in this case, they need to make a stand against this. This might be a difficult task for many politicians, as SDG&E/Sempra funds money for campaigns on every side of the political party spectrum if they feel it is to its advantage. I really have no problem with that unless because of the dependence for large sums of cash to fund campaigns, they sell out their constituents to keep the cash flow coming in for the upcoming 2016 elections.

This has to be stopped and it will take an all hands on deck approach. Contact the California Public Utilities Commission at 1-800-649-7570 for information on how to file a complaint against a utility company. Also, call, write and speak to your local, state and federal representatives and officially and let them know this action is unacceptable.

Many in East County are still recovering from the 2007 wildfires, and some will never recover what they had. If SDG&E has a victory this fall, you can count on them passing the buck along in the future. In a wildfire prone area and in the most severe drought we have seen in our lifetime, this is something that we cannot allow to happen. The people are not responsible for the fires or the settlement costs of SDG&E. It is its burden to bear.