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By Miriam Raftery
April 8, 2012 (San Diego) Updated April 10, 2012-- At the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) public meeting this week in San Diego, Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey and CPUC Comissioner Timothy Simon heard from hundreds of area residents, including tearful testimony by numerous victims of the 2007 firestorms. Some held twisted burned remnants of their lost homes. Others recalled friends who perished in the flames.
But the most explosive testimony came from former City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who declared, “This decision is already made.” He then leveled accusations that the two CPUC represenstatives present, Commissioner Timothy Simon and Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey, are beholden to SDG&E and subverted the legal interests of fire victims and ratepayers.
ECM EDITORIAL: CPUC SHOULD REJECT SDG&E’S SCHEME TO MAKE RATEPAYERS PAY FOR WILDFIRES THAT IT CAUSED
By Miriam Raftery, Editor
April 5, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--When ENRON schemed to manipulate markets and defraud ratepayers, its executives went to jail. BP faces billions of dolalrs in fines for causing the Gulf Oil spill. When automobile manufacturers sold cars with dangerous defects that killed people, it was their shareholders who paid the price. A lost hunter convicted of accidentally starting the Cedar Fire with a flare gun also spent time in jail.
Why, then, should SDG&E and its publicly traded parent company, Sempra Energy, expect local ratepayers to pay for its uninsured liability costs for the wildfires that it caused, while its executives get off scott free?
Supervisor warns of ‘purchased’ testimony from groups receiving SDG&E funding
SAN DIEGO— San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob is set to ask state regulators to reject a proposal by SDG&E that would force ratepayers to shoulder the costs of the 2007 wildfires and future wildfires. The California Public Utilities Commission is holding public hearings on the matter tomorrow at the Al Bahr Shriners Memorial Auditorium, 5440 Kearny Mesa Road, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
April 2, 2012 (San Diego) -- Today, in an effort to help enhance the region’s emergency preparedness, San Diego Gas & Electric unveiled its new mobile emergency command centers and new satellite communication systems in San Diego.
"It's right behind my house where we would hike," she said of the posted environmentally sensitive area, where the greatest damage to the environment has been caused by SDG&E itself. "Now there are 10 towers on the east side. It's caused me so much sorrow," Rowley wrote.
By Meg A. Watts
April 1, 2012 (Jacumba) – Officially, the power outage that left 1.4 million customers in San Diego and across the southwest in the dark last September has been blamed on a worker in Yuma, according to SDG&E. But an ECM investigation reveals an electrifying new theory, backed up by photos and an eyewitness account from an off-duty Border Patrol Agent.
Part III in our exclusive report on the proposed Ocotillo Express Wind project
By Miriam Raftery
March 27, 2012 (Ocotillo)-Ocotillo resident Jim Pelley dreads the prospect of the 456-tall wind turbines that may soon surround his home on three sides-some less than half mile away.
Whirling blades, each weighing many tons, would be placed atop an active earthquake fault area capable of a 7.0 quake or more. Fire danger, groundwater impacts, noise, electromagnetic sound waves and ground current are among the potential perils that he fears.
“Our quiet little town of Ocotillo with pristine views of the mountains will be destroyed forever. In return, we have to deal with the possibility of some serious adverse health effects and many other serious problems,” Pelley, an award-winning photojournalist and engineer, told ECM.
By Miriam Raftery
March 24, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – Earlier this month, an administrative law judge with the California Public Utilities Commission ordered San Diego Gas & Electric Company to prepare a plan that would give ratepayers the right to not have wireless smart meters.
But critics, who claim the meters are public health hazards, say the prospect of being charged for removal of smart meters and paying extra fees each month for meter readings is unacceptable.
Fallen trees block roads in Pine Valley and Rancho San Diego
March 19, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – A weather-related problem with a power pole has left 38 utility customers without power in the East Descanso, Green Valley Falls and Cuyamaca areas.
According to SDG&E, the outage began at 2:25 a.m. and power is expected to be restored around 7 p.m. tonight, leaving customers without power for more than 16 hours amid chill winter temperatures and snow.
HOT NEWS: SOLAR NOW COMPETITIVE WITH FOSSIL FUELS AS MAJOR STRIDES MADE TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY, BUT CHALLENGES REMAIN
“San Diego is becoming a Mecca for renewable energy for the United States.” –Mike Armstrong, Soitec, speaking at the San Diego Solar Energy Symposium
By Miriam Raftery
March 18, 2012 (San Diego) – The future is sunny for solar energy. Price parity with conventional energy sources has now been attained in some areas as demand rises and the cost of solar falls. California has emerged as a national leader in the shift to solar--with San Diego at the helm.
March 17, 2012 (La Mesa) – Updated March 23, 2012 -- Last week, we ran a story indicating that SDG&E failed to notify hundreds of La Mesa homes and businesses of a planned outage March 2. Sam Chammas, owner of Riviera Supper Club, wich had a full restaurant and band playing when the lights went out, has now challenged SDG&E to “say sorry with a steak.”
Will SDG&E accept this rare invitation from the steakhouse owner, or consider the matter well done? ECM has asked SDG&E to respond and will publish the response when received. Meanwhile, here is Chammas’ sizzling statement:
CPUC TO HOLD 2 PUBLIC PARTICIPATION HEARINGS ON SDG&E REQUEST TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRE COSTS
Incident cost local restaurant money , highlights risk to ratepayers with medical needs
March 14, 2012 (La Mesa) – After ECM received a question from a reader about a power outage that began Friday night, March 2 and extended until Saturday morning, March 3, we contacted SDG&E. SDG&E spokesperson Alison Zaragosa initially said that all 2800 customers left in the dark were notified via letters mailed February 14 of the planned outage to repair an underground cable.
But after La Mesa Patch ran a story about losses incurred by Riviera Steakhouse, whose owner said he was never informed of the outage, other community members came forward to say that they, too, did not receive notification. So we called SDG&E again.
“We did investigate and we did miss 200 to 300,” Zaragosa told ECM.
By Susan Brinchman
Partnership with Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada, will bring Privacy by Design best practices to customer offerings
March 9, 2012 (San Diego) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada, has released a joint paper to document the incorporation of Privacy by Design into SDG&E’s smart grid initiative.
According to an SDG&E press release, this partnership is the first of its kind in the United States, and emphasizes the “commitment of the company in designing, building and operating a secure, reliable and trustworthy smart grid that safeguards customer privacy” from the start.
By Miriam Raftery
March 1, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – What are the cumulative impacts on our region from the loss of federal, state and county public lands? In the span of just a few short years, we’ve lost vast tracts of our most beautiful properties once set aside by the federal, state and county governments as preserves for future generations. Wildfires, budget cuts, and now, massive energy projects are destroying our region's scenic wonders.
East County Magazine has sent our photographers into the wilds of San Diego’s East County, as well as just over the border into neighboring Imperial County, to document the destruction of our inland treasures.
UTILITY WATCHDOG GROUP UCAN TO SHUT DOWN AMID FEDERAL PROBE: EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS EXPRESS SHOCK, DISMAY
"As bad as SDG&E is with a watchdog, imagine it without a watchdog.” – Donna Tisdale
“…No evidence confirming such allegations was provided by those lodging allegations, nor discovered by any of the professionals retained by UCAN’s board.” – press release posted on UCAN website
"We're trying to save UCAN and they're dissolving it." -- Mike Aguirre, attorney
March 5, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – To many ratepayers in East County, the Utility Consumers Action Network (UCAN) has been a valued ally in their battles against San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). For example, UCAN filed a lawsuit that tried to halt Sunrise Powerlink and submitted a study that helped persuade the California Public Utilities Commission to reject a rate hike proposal.
So UCAN’s announcement that it is dissolving amid an FBI investigation into its finances and a Grand Jury summons has been met with shock, dismay and skepticism here in East County.
By Miriam Raftery
February 28, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – In September, ECM reported 30 construction violations by SDG&E related to Sunrise Powerlink, including serious safety hazards that briefly grounded helicopters. Today, the San Diego UT reports 42 new citations for helicopter flights from October through January. These include flying too close to protected bighorn sheep, dropping another compressor, falling transmission wires, and a door plummeting off a helicopter.
SDG&E was also ordered to replace 10 shiny steel towers in Cleveland National Forest that were supposed to be dull grey. Ironically, state regulators at the CPUC have refused to order similar corrective action in Lakeside’s El Monte Valley, where an identical promise was made--and broken.
CPUC WILL HOLD HEARING IN SAN DIEGO APRIL 5 ON SDG&E REQUEST TO CHARGE RATEPAYERS FOR WILDFIRE COSTS
February 24, 2012 (San Diego)—San Diego County residents will finally have a chance to tell the California Public Utilities Commission what they think about San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposal to charge ratepayers $463.9 million for the utility’s uninsured losses due to the 2007 wildfires caused by its poorly maintained power lines.
Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon will hold a public participation hearing on April 5 from 4-9 p.m. at the Al Bar Shriner Auditorium , 4330 Kearny Mesa Road in San Diego.
The announcement follows a February 21, 2012 “Turko Files” KUSI TV investigative report which revealed over a dozen private meetings in which SDG&E executives wined and dined CPUC Commissioner Simon, who is acting as a judge on this matter: http://www.kusi.com/story/16988213/almost-anything-goes.
- Community meeting discussing Quail Brush Power Plant Feb. 28 (Santee Patch)
- Grossmont expands school enrollment choices for some (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- San Diego Gas & Electric wants you to pay for its negligence (San Diego Reader)
- Nature reclaims local cold war relic (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- Hunter introduces bill to name Ramona Post Office after Mac McWilliams (Ramona Patch)
- Helix claims Hills League title with tiebreaking victory over Grossmont (La Mesa Patch)
- Veterans recover from war wounds on the farm (MSNBC)
- SDPD Oversight Board Faces Favoritism Accusations
- Prop 8 backers seek review of gay marriage case (Sacramento Bee)
- Jerry Brown: California to reopen trade offices in China (Sacramento Bee)
STREETSCAPE IMPROVEMENTS, SDG&E NOISE VARIANCE REQUEST AMONG AGENDA ITEMS FOR ALPINE PLANNERS FEB. 23
By Miriam Raftery
February 17, 2012 (Lakeside) – A lineman for a PAR Electric subcontractor working on SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink suffered serious injuries yesterday in a fall in Lakeside’s El Monte Valley.
“Even though he refused medical attention, he was strongly encouraged to go to the hospital, via ambulance, for precautionary reasons,” Deborah Tate with PAR Electric told ECM. “After being examined at the hospital, he was informed that he has 8 broken ribs [and] a separated shoulder.”
How many massive energy projects are too many for one rural community to absorb?
“They want to put these all out here, because we’re throwaway country people.” – Howard Cook
By Mia Myklebust and Miriam Raftery
February 16, 2012 (Jacumba) – Walking along the shores of Lake Jacumba, it’s clear that Howard Cook has big dreams for his community. Chairman of the Lake Restoration Committee, he has wrested a pledge from the Audubon Society to restore the once-dry lake.
“We want to have fishing, boating, and recreation,” he says. Cook is working with others who dream of “making this another Taos—art, wildlife, hiking, Indians and birds.”
But there’s trouble on the horizon. Multiple industrial-scale wind and solar farms soon stand to surround this tiny town, jeopardizing its most cherished natural treasures. Sites include publicly owned recreation lands, notably a spectacular scenic gorge known to locals as “our Grand Canyon,” Cook points out.
Jacumba is a proverbial canary in the coal mine—a warning of what other publicly-owned preserves and rural communities across America may soon face.
LEGAL ACTION BY FIRE VICTIMS SEEKS TO BLOCK SDG&E EFFORT TO FORCE RATEPAYERS TO PAY WILDFIRE COSTS INCURRED BY UTILITY
2 other utilities have withdrawn requests to make ratepayers pay for wildfire damages
By Miriam Raftery
February 10, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)—A motion has been filed on behalf of 2007 wildfire victims whose properties were destroyed or damaged in the 2007 Witch Creek, Guejito and Rice Canyon Fires caused by San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s power lines.
The motion claims SDG&E did not provide proper notice to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) about a proposed “wildfire expense balancing account” – a rate hike that would force the public including fire victims to pay SDG&E’s uninsured liability costs for massive wildfires that it caused.
February 7, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has asked the County to authorize Sunday work on the Sunrise Powerlink project between February 19 and May 28 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in or near the following locations: Lakeside’s San Vicente and el Capitan Reservoir, Jacumba, and Cleveland National Forest. Those operations will include planned power outages in the impacted areas.
JACOB ASKING STATE REGULATORS TO REVIEW GPS DATA AFTER SDG&E HELICOPTERS BREACH ‘NO FLY’ ZONES AROUND EAGLE NESTS--AGAIN
February 6, 2012 (San Diego’s East County) — San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob is asking state regulators to review GPS data from helicopters working on the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line after SDG&E helicopters violated “no fly” zones on three separate occasions last month. The “no fly” zones are designed to protect golden eagles during nesting season.
A local elected official says SDG&E installations of smart meters are occurring at homes on opt-out list
By Miriam Raftery
February 7, 2012 (San Diego)—The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) this week voted to allow Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers to have smart meters replaced with older analog meters, for a $75 installation fee plus a monthly fee of $5 to $10, depending on income. Ratepayers must inform PG&E by May 1 if they wish to opt-out.
Commissioners have not yet ruled on whether to allow San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) or other utilities’ customers to opt out, but are expected to make a similar ruling later this month. SDG&E has proposed even higher opt-out fees of including an initial $175-$200, an exit fee of $50 and a monthly fee of $15 to cover meter readings, the North County Times reports.