USA — Wildfires are a tragic reality in Southern California, and they leave lasting impacts on families, businesses and communities. After these disasters, its necessary, although difficult, to set aside emotions to determine what we can do together to be better prepared in the future.
At San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), we already have taken major steps to strengthen our system to make it more resilient in high winds; to provide better real-time weather data to prepare for its potential impact; and to work with local fire agencies and first responders to help our communities get ready for emergencies, including wildfires.
Still, there are some things we cant change. We cant insulate our system 100 percent from the danger and damage of wildfires, and we must continue to provide service to all customers, including those who live in high fire-risk areas, no matter the hazard. And, unfortunately, the factors that transform a spark into a destructive wildfire often are entirely outside our control.
As a result, we must maintain significant liability insurance coverage, which is increasingly costly and hard to obtain. SDG&E strives to carry an appropriate amount of insurance at a reasonable cost, but, sometimes, even that is not enough due to the devastating nature of these wind-whipped wildfires.
Another challenge courts in California have determined utilities are subject to inverse condemnation, which means utilities are strictly liable for damage caused by their equipment, regardless of fault, even when the utility has complied with all safety requirements.
The courts assume that a utility, like a government, can pass on to its customers the costs of any damages arising from its facilities. In other words, the utility must compensate individual damages such as those claimed as a result of the 2007 wildfires with the understanding that those costs will be spread among all customers, who also share in the benefits of the utilitys power grid. To some, this might not seem fair, but two different appellate courts have found it is the law in California.
No one could have predicted the extent of the damage from the 2007 wildfires.
With about 600 claims still unresolved, settlements so far have outstripped $1.9 billion the total of SDG&Es insurance coverage and recoveries from third parties.
SDG&E sought to implement a Wildfire Expense Balancing Account, or WEBA, to set the rules for rate recovery of fire-related costs that exceed insurance coverage. To be able to respond adequately and adapt for the future, we must be able to tally the true costs when a disaster strikes.
The California Public Utilities Commission decided not to adopt a WEBA, but did allow SDG&E to continue to track the excess costs from the 2007 fires and to file for potential rate recovery of those costs at some future date. We believe the Commission reached a reasonable compromise. SDG&E is committed to working with regulators and others toward a resolution thats fair and allows us to continue to provide safe, reliable service to all of our customers. The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.