The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 7 declined to hear San Diego Gas & Electric's appeal of prior rulings that prevented it from collecting from its customers $379 million resulting from wildfires that occurred in 2007.

The case flowed from a November 2017 decision by the California Public Utilities Commission that denied SDG&E the rate recovery. SDG&E unsuccessfully appealed to the state Supreme Court, asking it to consider whether privately owned utilities should be entitled to recover the costs of inverse condemnation. SDG&E had also argued that a district court judge who had sued the utility for damages should be required to recuse herself in the case. Inverse condemnation allows compensation of a private party whose property is damaged for public use, regardless of whether a utility is found negligent.

Court of Appeal Associate Judge Patricia Benke had rejected SDG&E's petition for review of the November 2017 CPUC decision [D17-11-033; 4th District Court of Appeal Case No. D074417]. Benke and her husband had sued SDG&E, alleging that they lost their house in the Guejito Fire as a result of SDG&E's negligence and citing inverse condemnation as well as negligence and other claims.

SDG&E in an Oct. 7 written statement said it was "disappointed" by the decision.

"SDG&E has shown that the fires occurred due to circumstances beyond our control, but nevertheless the application to spread the costs through rates was denied," it said. "Despite this legal outcome, SDG&E remains committed to help strengthen wildfire preparedness and prevention and will continue our collaboration with other regional leaders to protect our customers and help prevent wildfires from devastating the communities we serve." The utility said it has invested about $1.5 billion in wildfire mitigation since 2007.