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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.

Diane Conklin, spokesperson for the Mussey Grade Alliance in Ramona, says the CPUC fails to distribute the new proposed decision to the service list of parties in the proceding.  She received a copy for the first time from a subscription list after 4 p.m. today.

“This attempt to put forward a new decision without any time for comment and review by the parties is unconscionable and a violation of due process,” Conklin wrote in a letter to the CPUC this evening.

The Ramona fire survivor has tried without success to persuade the CPUC to hold tomorrow’s meeting in San Diego.  Now  after learning at the last minute that tomorrow’s agenda includes a proposal with major changes, she, too, has asked the CPUC not to take up the new alternate decision at tomorrow’s meeting.

David Peffer, staff attorney for the Utiltiy Consumers Action Network (UCAN) also filed an objection, noting that the new decision "differs radically from the previously distributed Alternate Proposed Decision.  The Commission cannot consider the Revision 2 Alternate Decision without violating due process."

Some are questioning why the rush to push through major changes with such stealth, given that parties were given weeks to read, analyze and submit comments on the two prior alternate decisions.

Commissioner Simon has been criticized for his cozy ties to the utilities regulated by the CPUC.  KUSI TV’s  Turko Files reported over a dozen private meetings in which SDG&E executives wined and dined Simon on two continents. His term expires in December, leading to speculation by some that the rush to consider his revised decision may be politically motivated.

At an earlier public meeting in San Diego back in April, Aguirre gave explosive testimony, accusing both Simon and Bushy, a former SDG&E lawyer, of being beholden to SDG&E and subverting the interests of both ratepayers and fire victims.

The group Much Better Choices has set up a link for consumers to contact the CPUC and "demand that SDGE be required to pay for damages they caused from the 2007 wildfires not the victims." The  CPUC will decide the issue Dec 20; for more  information and contact information go to http://www.facebook.com/MuchBetterChoices

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