San Diego power company wants customers to pay 90% of wildfire costs

San Diego Gas and Electric wants to raise the rates their customers pay in order to cover the costs the utility incurred after the failure of their power lines caused the Witch Creek, Guejito, and Rice Canyon fires in 2007. The fires destroyed more than 1,300 homes in southern California, killed two people, and caused massive evacuations. The Witch Creek Fire which started near Santa Ysabel burned 197,990 acres.

SDG&E still owes $421 million resulting from legal settlements that were not covered by their insurance. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that on Friday the company asked for permission to have their customers pay 90 percent, or $379 million, of the remaining costs from the fires. The stockholders would pay $42 million.

In the years since the 2007 fires caused by SDG&E’s powerlines, the company has replaced a small percentage of wooden poles with steel poles, stepped up tree trimming programs near power lines, installed over 100 weather monitoring stations, staged private firefighters in areas with extreme fire danger, made a Type 1 helicopter available to firefighters for two years, and initiated a program to proactively shut off power to areas if they feel wind and weather conditions could cause their lines to fail and ignite fires.

The program of turning off power to prevent fires, has been controversial.

From the Times of San Diego in 2014:

San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, a fierce critic of SDG&E who represents East County communities, asked the utility to shut off electricity only as a last resort.

“I’m deeply concerned about any shutoffs because they pose risks to property and life in an emergency, especially in areas where firefighters need access to well water,” Jacob said. “I urge the utility to cut power only as a last resort and only if there’s an actual system failure that could ignite a wildfire.”

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

One thought on “San Diego power company wants customers to pay 90% of wildfire costs”

  1. San Diego Power Gas and Electric takes the wrong position. I cant begin to count the number of fires I have responded to because of electrical malfunction, arcing power lines, blown transformers etc. Power companies need to take a proactive role with regards to fire like:

    Start building power lines under ground.
    Increased inspections.
    Place a time line to electrical parts much like maintenance regimes for aircraft where parts are replaced BEFORE they fail.
    Invest in there own fire suppression program.
    Create a collective insurance co/policy where power companies from across the west can subscribe to that can help pay for the costs associated with wildfire.

    Coming to their customers with hat in hand looking for more money places them in a poor position with customers are already asked to pay more and more for access to power.

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