I attended the first half of a meeting between San Diego Gas & Electric and “stakeholders” of San Diego’s protection from wildfires this morning.

SDG&E was directed to organize the meeting by state officials after they rejected the utility’s proposed shut-off plan one month ago. Stakeholders at the meeting today include some of the most vocal opponents of the shut-off plan (schools, water districts and telecommunication companies).

The purpose of the meeting was to choose a mediation process to discuss the region’s fire safety efforts and the utility’s most controversial proposal, the shut-off plan. The utility brought three mediation services forward and the group is scheduled to discuss them until 1:30 p.m. I’m contacting people later in the day to see what the group decided.

The stakeholders could choose to use the mediation services of the California Public Utilities Commission or one of two private services. In any case, the stakeholders have the ability to frame what questions will be addressed in mediation and the group’s conduct in those discussions. SDG&E staff said the company would likely pay for the mediation service. Other mediation options (including payment for the services) could also be discussed by the group.

I stuck around to hear about the first option, a mediation service offered by the CPUC. A neutral staffer would be assigned to mediate the dispute and could become available for meetings in San Diego. The mediations are generally confidential — not to be discussed with the public, media or the CPUC — but some county staff at the meeting expressed concern with that limitation.

From the beginning, some stakeholders expressed doubt that a resolution could be reached. One member asked the coordinator of CPUC’s mediation service to address whether no resolution would just be a waste of everyone’s time.

“Each group is going to walk away with a clearer (picture of) objectives, desires — the things they must have, the things that are important to you,” administrative law judge Jean Vieth said via telephone. “I can’t tell you [alternative dispute resolution] will work. No one can.”

I’m scheduled to talk with a few people later today about what the group decided. I’ll write another blog post in the afternoon to let you know where the group is headed and how that might impact the proposed shut-off plan.


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