CPUC: San Diego Utility Can’t Pass 2007 Fire Costs onto Customers
Orange County Register
By the Associated Press
California regulators rejected a request Thursday from a San Diego utility to force customers to shoulder $379 million in costs from deadly blazes ignited by power lines in 2007 — a decision seen as possibly precedent-setting for cases in which devastating wildfires tore through wine country this fall.
The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to uphold an August decision by two judges, who said San Diego Gas & Electric did not act reasonably in managing its equipment and could not pass along costs from the three fires to ratepayers. State law allows utilities to recover costs from customers only if they act in a “prudent” manner.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Edison had pushed regulators to rule in the utility’s favor, saying the case highlighted a need to fairly distribute costs from wildfires, which are proving to be more destructive due to drought conditions and home construction in backcountry areas.
Environmental and consumer groups and some elected officials had said ruling for the San Diego company could set a precedent for other utilities to pass along the costs of wildfires ignited by power lines and discourage them from properly maintaining their infrastructure.