San Diego Gas & Electric late today (September 25) asked the California Public Utilities Commission to get consumers to pay the uninsured costs of the 2007 wildfires. After a thorough investigation, a unit of the commission had blamed the local utility for those fires.
In December of 2012, just before Christmas, the commission tried a caper that I identified at the time as one of the most brazen scams I had seen in 50 years of covering corporate fraud.
The commission was to vote on two matters, neither of which had to do with coverage of the 2007 fires. But Timothy Simon, the commissioner in charge of the matter, pulled a fast one. At the last minute, he changed the wording of the proposal so that the commissioners would vote on whether the ratepayers would pick up the part of the tab for uninsured costs of the 2007 fires. That was originally not in the proposal and was not supposed to be on the table.
Two intervenors, the Mussey Grade Alliance and San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre, caught Simon's attempted trickery and complained loudly. The Reader did an item on the scam attempt before the vote. The commission had no choice but to vote down the attempt to get ratepayers to pay uninsured costs of the 2007 fires.
About two years ago, I was talking with a former administrative law judge at the commission. The former judge told me: "They will try to sneak it back in. That's how they operate." After all, the commission cares about utility profits and not a whit about consumers.
So, today, SDG&E tried again. Late this afternoon, it filed with the commission for approval to shift to ratepayers the remaining costs related to the 2007 fires. Ratepayers would have to shovel out $379 million over six years and shareholders would only pick up 10 percent of the tab, or merely $42 million. Those fires were the fault of SDG&E management. Shareholders should pick up the entire tab for management blunders.
Aguirre says SDG&E is asking ratepayers to pick up the tab for something that has already been denied them. He likens it to the Southern California Edison scam in which that utility is trying to get ratepayers to pick up the tab for management blunders that led to the closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Aguirre also notes that SDG&E made the filing late on a Friday. When companies want little or no news coverage, they put out an announcement late Friday.