East County News Service
May 1, 2017 (Jamul) – When SDG&E received approval to build the Sunrise Powerlink high voltage lines across rural East County, the company was required to provide fire mitigation grant of up to $2,000 for impacted homeowners to create defensible space through landscaping and/or install fire-hardening building materials to protect their properties.
But from Alpine to Jamul, some residents have complained that the company “shirked its responsibility” by denying some property owners even in severely impacted areas, according to a letter that Supervisor Dianne Jacob has sent to Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.
Jacob is asking the CPUC to conduct an audit and review of the program to assure transparency and fairness.
Deerhorn Valley Antler editor Kim Hamilton, moreover, writes that “Residents who filed complaints with the CPUC about the Fire Grant Program are receiving a response that grant eligibility is not under their jurisdiction.”
The CPUC is responsible for regulation utilities such as SDG&E, so it’s unclear why the CPUC would deny jurisdiction over this critical matter to protect residents in areas scorched by multiple severe firestorms.
Individuals can file concerns or complaints directly to the CPUC at this link: https://appsssl.cpuc.ca.gov/cpucapplication/
Colleen Windsor, Senior Communications Manager for SDG&E, provided this response to Supervisor Jacob’s request to the CPUC for an audit. “SDG&E is committed to helping the communities we serve protect their homes, families and businesses from the hazards of wildfires,” she stated. “This includes funding the Sunrise Powerlink Fire Mitigation program as required by the CPUC. We understand that some of those who asked for, but didn’t receive, a grant would be disappointed but SDG&E is not a voting member and does not help decide who should receive a grant.”
Windsor clarified that the Sunrise Powerlink Fire Mitigation Group (SPFMG) manages and distributes all of the available funds each year, minus the costs of managing the program. The group consists of a representative from each of the fire agencies located within the area the line crosses. That includes San Diego Fire-Rescue, San Diego County Fire Authority, Alpine Fire Protection District, Lakeside Fire Department, the Bureau of Land Management, and CAL FIRE. "SDG&E is required by the CPUC to fund the program and provide guidance in managing the program, but is not a voting member and does not help to decide who should receive a grant," she added.
Additional information can also be found on the program’s web page: https://www.sunrisepowerlinkgrants.com/2017.
"Not a voting member..."