Last Monday, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) was finally held accountable for their actions leading to the devastating 2007 wildfires that afflicted San Diego County. The California Supreme Court denied their request to essentially have local taxpayers pay $379 million for their incompetence and financial imprudence.
In October 2007, the Rice, Witch, and Guejito fires burned across San Diego, leaving unimaginable and overwhelming damage to local families. After thorough investigations, improperly preserved SDG&E equipment was deemed the origin of the fires. Moreover, the company had failed to maintain trees and other plants that came into contact with company power lines. Over the past two years, SDG&E has tried to prove their innocence—and evaded payment—by participating in multiple legal battles against California.
Despite the results of the investigations, the utility, a component of Sempra Energy, still claims that it was external circumstances and not SDG&E equipment that sparked the fatal 2007 wildfires. Furthermore, to try and prove their innocence, SDG&E involved the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which helped with the settlement payments by changing rates and expressed approval with regard to the condition of SDG&E’s equipment. Lastly, the commission tried to invoke inverse condemnation that would make SDG&E accept liability contingent on the fact they could raise rates for local taxpayers.
In the end, the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Court of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court all opposed SDG&E’s attempt to force local taxpayers to pay for their wrongdoings. It was blatantly obvious that the company was trying to dodge any form of accountability and payments on behalf of their incompetence and outright negligence. Since local taxpayers will not be financially responsible, Sempra Energy shareholders will now be forced to pay the $379 million in costs. and rightfully so.