By Miriam Raftery
December 20, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – in a unanimous decision, the California Public Uitlities Commission (CPUC) denied San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern Califiornia Gas Company’s proposed Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA). SDG&E had sought to charge ratepayers for its uninsured liability costs for wildfires caused by the utility’s lines, both for future fires and the 2007 firestorms that ravaged San Diego County. Click here for the formal decision.
“This is a huge win for San Diego County residents -- and for common sense,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “SDG&E’s proposal to charge ratepayers for fires the utility largely helped cause would have been a grave injustice to ratepayers and victims of the 2007 firestorms. Sempra Energy and SDG&E continue to make healthy profits and last year dished out hefty bonuses to their top executives,” she added. “The idea that SDG&E cannot afford these costs is nonsense – and I’m glad state regulators appeared to see it the same way.”
Multiple alternatives were put forward prior to today’s CPUC meeting. But in the end, the Commission adopted Commission Mark Ferron’s revised proposed decision, which denies SDG&E’s WEBA proposal outright. The Commission made clear that the WEBA proposal is now closed and will not be revisited. However, commissioners also left open the option for SDG&E to submit an application in the future to recover uninsured wildfire costs on a case-by-base basis, subject to a reasonableness review.
"We leave the determination of the appropriateness and reasonabless of recovering SDG&E's uninsured 2007w ildfire costs booked in the Z-factor memorandum account and the Wildfire Expense Memorandum Account to a future proceeding," Ferron's decision concluded. "In all other respects, the application for wildfire expense balancing accounts should be dismissed."
The decision found that the utility company applicants “have not met their burden of establishing the need for a balancing account.”
Hundreds of ratepayers including many fire survivors turned out to oppose the WEBA proposal in a CPUC public meeting held in San Diego last spring, along with some who testified in support; nearly all of the later had financial ties to SDG&E.
Diane Conklin, spokesperson for the Mussey Grade Road Alliance, a Ramona-based organization representing wildfire survivors, said the Alliance is pleased with the decision.
“We want to thank everyone who pitched in to defeat the WEBA mechanism,” she said today, “which was a bad idea from the start.”