wildfire costs

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.

SDG&E WANTS RATEPAYERS TO PAY 90% OF ITS REMAINING WILDFIRE LAWSUITS COSTS

 

East County News Service

September 29, 2015 (San Diego)—San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) on Friday asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to allow the company to charge ratepayers for 90% of its remaining costs to settle the 2,500 lawsuits from the 2007 firestorms.  SDG&E faced $4 billion in claims arising from the fires, but settle most cases for $2.4 billion.

Most of that was covered by the company’s liability insurance or recoveries from third parties. SDG&E now wants its shareholders to pay just 10% ($42 million) with the remaining 90% to be passed on to ratepayers.  If approved, SDG&E proposes to spread out the remaining $379 million over six years, which it estimates would raise monthly bills less than $1.70 for a typical residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month.

By contrast, a poll of East County Californian newspaper readers found that 100% believe  SDG&E and its shareholders, not ratepayers, should bear responsibility for the wildfire settlement costs.

SDG&E WANTS RATEPAYERS TO PAY FOR ITS WILDFIRE COSTS

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

Updated August 8, 2015 with comments from SDG&E, clarifications/corrections.

August 7, 2015 (San Diego’s East County ) – SDG&E is asking the California Public Utilities Commission to pass on costs to ratepayers for the uninsured costs of legal settlements for the utility's role in causing three major fires in the 2007 firestorms.  The utility has announced plans to file an application this fall seeking to recover those costs, which could be as high as $367 million.