2007 wildfires

PG&E DISCLOSES EX-PARTE COMMUNICATIONS IN EFFORT TO INFLUENCE SDG&E WILDFIRE COSTS CASE; RATEPAYER FILES SUIT SEEKING TO PREVENT RATEPAYERS FROM BEING CHARGED FOR 2007 FIRES

 

By Miriam Raftery

October 31, 2017 (San Diego) – An ex-parte meeting between representatives of Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison and a California Public Utilities Commissioner’s advisor was held October 4th regarding the application by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) for authorization to recover costs related to the 2007 wildfires.  SDG&E has sought to charge ratepayers for its uninsured losses pursuant to a Wildfire Expense Management Account (WEMA).

A REPORTER’S REFLECTIONS ON THE FIRESTORMS OF 2007

 

 

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

Photo, left:  Harris Fire viewed from Barrett Junction, the morning of October 21, 2007

October 21, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) – Ten years ago today, I was among the first reporters on the scene when the devastating 2007 firestorms began.  I couldn’t believe that just four years after the deadly Cedar Fire, the nightmare was occurring again –on what turned out to be an even more horrific scale.  

Out of the ashes of those fires, East County Magazine and our East County Wildfire and Emergency Alerts were born, to help fill a need for critical information in real-time.

CPUC TO HOLD HEARING SEPT. 28 LOCALLY ON PROPOSED DECISION REGARDING WILDFIRE EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT FOR SDG&E

 

Update:  The CPUC has announced it will hold this agenda item slated for the Thursday morning hearing, meaning no vote will be taken on this agenda item.  Public comment will still be accepted before all five commissioners at the start of the mornng hearing .

Public comment will also be taken during an all parties meeting later in the day, but not all commisioners will be present at the later meeting. See more details at the end of this story.

By Miriam Raftery

September 26, 2017 (San Diego) –The California Public Utilities Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in the Chula Vista City Council Chambers  (276 Fourth Ave., Chula Vista) on the CPUC’s proposed decision to deny SDG&E’s application to charge ratepayers $379 million for recovery of its uninsured losses related to the 2007 Witch, Rice and Guejito wildfires.  A similar request for $594 million was previously denied in 2012.

SDG&E sought to recover those losses through a Wildfire Expense  Memorandum Account (WEMA).  The proposed decision against SDG&E has drawn praise from some, including Supervisor Dianne Jacob, but concerns from others including a fire survivor and intervener in the case.  Some ratepayer advocates also warn that the CPUC could  change its mind on the proposed denial of SDG&E’s WEMA application or postpone action following ex-parte lobbying efforts by the utility company.

APPEALS COURT RULES 2007 FIRE SURVIVOR CAN RECOVER DAMAGES FROM SDG&E FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

 

By Miriam Raftery

February 9, 2017 (Poway) –Judge O'Rourke on the Fourth District Court of Appeal has issued a decision finding that Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss erred in not allowing 2007 wildfire survivor William Michael Hensley to present evidence of emotional distress damages.

According to the court decision, William Hensley was out of town when the wildfire forced his wife, Linda, and their daughter to evacuate.  Worried about their safety, he came home early and drove with Linda to a nearby location where they watched the fire burn houses close to theirs, fearing  that everything  had been lost.  Their house was damaged and a large grove of avocado trees burned down.

IN HEATED CPUC HEARING, PUBLIC SPEAKS OUT ON SDG&E PROPOSAL TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR 2007 WILDFIRE COSTS

 

By Rachel Williams

January 12, 2017 (Escondido) -- The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hosted public hearings on Monday covering SDG&E’s second attempt to charge ratepayers for the utility’s unrecovered losses from California’s 2007 wildfires.

FIRE SURVIVORS' ADVOCATE URGES PUBLIC TO SPEAK AT MONDAY CPUC HEARINGS ON SDG&E PROPOSAL TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR 2007 WILDFIRE COSTS

Hear our KNSJ radio interview with Diane Conklin, Mussey Grade Road Alliance, by clicking the audio link. Conklin estimates cost of SDG&E’s proposal could be $280 per household.

By Miriam Raftery

January 6, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) --In 2012,  a huge turnout by ratepayers helped persuade the California Public Utilities Commission to deny SDG&E’s request to charge ratepayers for its uninsured costs of  three 2007 wildfires.

 Now the utility has revived a similar proposal, seeking $379 million from ratepayers. On Monday, the CPUC will hold public hearings in Escondido at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the California Center for the Arts Escondido conference center, Salon 1Room, 340 North Escondido Blvd. in Escondido.

Advocates for ratepayers and fire survivors are urging the public to again turn out in force at Monday’s hearings, arguing that it would be unfair and set a bad precedent to allow a utility to charge ratepayers for fires caused by its equipment. They say that SDG&E should have foreseen high winds and taken steps to protect the public.   The group estimates average cost per household would be $280 if SDG&E’s proposal is approved.

 But SDG&E contends that  it’s fair to ask ratepayers to help shoulder costs of the fires, which it contends were natural disasters with winds stronger than seen in previous fires.  The company also notes that it has worked to reduce claims and made major investments to improve fire safety for the future.

Audio: 

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.

CPUC ISSUES CONFLICTING DRAFT DECISIONS ON WHETHER SDG&E MAY CHARGE CA RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRES CAUSED BY ITS POWER LINES

By Miriam Raftery

October 20, 2012 (San Diego)—Should SDG&E be allowed to charge ratepayers for the 2007 wildfires that it caused – as well as damage from any future fires?  The utility has sought to set up a ““Wildfire Expense Balancing  Account” (WEBA) that would allow it to recover its uninsured losses—regardless of whether the utility was negligent in failing to maintain its lines and equipment. 

This week, two conflicting draft decisions from California Public Utilities representatives are fueling further controversy.

$1,000 REWARD FOR INFO ON DECEMBER THEFT OF TRAILER FROM GROUP HELPING WILDFIRE VICTIMS REBUILD

 

Mennonite Disaster Services trailer has Pennsylvania plates

 

January 12, 2009 (San Diego)--San Diego County Crime Stoppers is joining forces with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Ramona detectives to help identify and apprehend the suspect(s) responsible for a theft of a gray tow trailer and about $10,000 worth of tools belonging to a volunteer group that was helping those affected by the 2007 wildfires.