Diane Conklin

SHOULD STATE APPROVE “BAIL OUT” BILLS TO EASE UTILITIES’ LIABILITY FOR WILDFIRES?

 

 

Companies say measures are needed to prevent bankruptcies, but Ramona group says the bills would increase risks of wildfires by axing incentives for utilities to improve safety

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

July 26, 2018 (Ramona) – Utilities are lobbying legislators to approve a pair of bills being pushed by Governor Jerry Brown in the wake of catastrophic fire storms  in Northern California linked to utility-owned lines and equipment.  Facing $10 billion in damages with reportedly only about $800,000 in insurance, PG&E has argued it could be pushed into bankruptcy without relief.  The utilities want to change California’s inverse condemnation laws, which hold utilities responsible for any fires caused by their lines. However, if a company is found to have safely operated its equipment, it can ask the California Public Utilities Commission to approve charging ratepayers for uninsured losses.

 

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) tried that approach, but the CPUC refused to approve charging ratepayers for the company’s liabilities in the 2007 firestorms, finding that SDG&E did not follow all required safety procedures. Now the big utility companies want to eliminate inverse condemnation in relation to wildfires--a proposal that has backcountry residents sounding the alarm.

CPUC ACCUSED OF VIOLATING BROWN ACT AND DUE PROCESS: FAILED TO NOTIFY PARTIES OF NEW PROPOSAL FOR MEETING TOMRROW ON SDG&E PLAN TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRE COSTS

By Miriam Raftery

December 19, 2012 (San Diego) – Why did the California Public Utilities Commission fail to notify parties that it plans to hear a drastically revised alternate decision at tomorrow’s meeting on SDG&E’s proposed Wildfire Expense Balancing Account (WEBA)? 

The new version, written by Commissioner Timothy Simon,  would allow SDG&E to charge ratepayers not only for certain uninsured costs of future wildfires caused by its lines, but also appears to now include the 2007 wildfires as well—a shift that has outraged fire survivors. (See pages 23 and 28 at link above.) The draft contains numerous other changes from an earlier alternate decision penned by Simon, as well as a separate alternate decision penned previously by Commissioner Maribeth Bushey, as ECM reported earlier.    

Former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, representing fire victim Ruth Henricks,  sent an e-mail tonight to the CPUC objecting to any discussion or consideration of the new alternative decision on grounds that it violates the Brown Act due to failure to give proper notice, as well as collective concurrence outside a properly noticed meeting.  He also alleges violation of due process.

EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS PROTEST ON STEPS OF SDG&E UPON NEWS THAT JUDGE CANCELS POWERLINK HEARING

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photos by Ron Logan, Miriam Raftery, and Merton Gaudette

 

March 10, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) – Candy Jenkins was looking forward to seeing environmental evidence presented to a federal judge in San Diego on Monday. “I live on El Capitan Mountain,” said the Lakeside resident, who  alleges that SDG&E is building Sunrise Powerlink towers only 2,000 feet from an eagles’ nest. She has photos, and says the eagles are tagged and the locations documented by the County. “Towers weren’t supposed to be within 4,000 feet,” she said. “We’re bringing this out today in court.”

 

Told by this reporter that the hearing had been cancelled because Judge Michael Anello announced that he will be ruling on the written record only, Jenkins expressed shock. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “Whatever happened to democracy in America?”