Ratepayers Furious Over Possible SDG&E Fire Fees

San Diego Gas & Electric wants ratepayers to cover a portion of the uninsured losses from the 2007 wildfires

Public hearings were held Thursday in Kearny Mesa in regards to San Diego Gas & Electric and their uninsured losses from San Diego’s 2007 wildfires.

SDG&E is looking to state regulators for a rate hike to cover these costs, and any future wildfire setbacks.

The hearings are being conducted by a state administrative law judge, who will make recommendations to the California Public Utilities Commission.

SDG&E's critics say the firm's fire losses -- projected at nearly $600 million -- should be covered by the shareholders of its parent company, Sempra Energy.

State investigators found that SDG&E's power lines were largely responsible for sparking the catastrophic damage during dry and windy Santa Ana conditions in October 2007.

Two people died and 1,300 homes burned down. Losses have run upwards of $2 billion.

At one point SDG&E acknowledged obstructing investigators and has paid the state $14 million to settle negligent maintenance allegations.

Now, the company wants ratepayers to bear 95-percent of its uninsured losses from the 2007 wildfires, with Sempra investors on the hook for the rest.

SDG&E said this would cost the average customer around $190, payable at the rate of $3 to $4 per month for up to four years.

But consumer advocates insist it would cost almost twice that figure.

Meanwhile, ratepayers are outraged at the very possibility of all this.

“I'm the worst of the injured in the Cedar fires. Very simply, there was nobody left for me to sue to recover for my damage and all of my pain and suffering. Why are they allowed to sue us and get recovery for the same issues?" argued Santee resident Rudy Reyes.

"It's a hard pill to swallow when they say, 'We're going to pass this on to the ratepayers, when were all having financial trouble because of the economy. Yet, they want us to pay for their mistakes?" said Lakeside resident Robin Davis.

Normal Heights local Tad Pinney had this to say about the possible extra charges: “My last utility bill was $46, so it's not really a huge impact for me. But it is the principle of the thing. It seems like they are asking the public to bear a burden that they shouldn't have to be bearing."

“If you mismanage your assets, [I’m] sorry. We don't need to bail them out, just from a customer's standpoint. If they can't manage their assets, it's their problem. I've got four acres. I don't have any fires on my property,” added Jim Russell of Jamul.

The public hearing over this matter lasted several hours Thursday based on the number of ratepayers who signed up to testify.

Whatever the current bottom line, the administrative law judge’s recommendation is expected in a couple months. A Public Utilities Commission decision is expected in August.

Check back for updates on this story.

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