San Diego Gas & Electric wants to raise rates to pay down debt stemming from the 2007 wildfires in San Diego County. The utility would raise every bill $1.70 for six years.
“It was basically a natural disaster,” said SDG&E attorney Christopher Lyons. He said Southern California was hit by hurricane-force winds. Those winds knocked down power lines that started those fires.
“We weren’t at fault for these fires and we didn’t do anything wrong,” said Lyons.
However, victims of the fires filed $5.6 billion in claims against the company.
“We ended up settling basically all the claims, thousands of claims, for $2.4 billion,” said Lyons.
Friday, the company said it was still $379 million in the hole. It has asked the California Public Utilities Commission to give them permission to have rate payers pick up the difference. It works out to $1.70 a month for each customer for six years.
“We’re very sympathetic to people who suffered losses and we realize that any rate increase is difficult,” said Lyons. “We believe we’ve done everything we could to make this rate increase as small as possible, as reasonable as possible.”
“No, no. We don’t want this,” said Diane Conklin, an outspoken critic of the rate increase. “Fundamentally they do not have a right to dip into our pockets for something that is obviously not the people’s fault who would be paying the bill.”
Conklin successfully battled SDG&E for the exact same reason five years ago. She said dozens of citizens blasted the rate increase at CPUC meetings. The CPUC ultimately agreed with the people.
“We want the people of San Diego to come forward and tell them again, ‘No,’ because it made the difference in 2012,” said Conklin.
Conklin said SDG&E has made great strides to make sure something like the 2007 wildfires never happens again but she added that’s no reason to make customers pay more.
The CPUC is holding public meetings Monday at 2 and 7 PM at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.