A disgruntled San Diego Gas & Electric customer in a petition to a state court is seeking an investigation into a California Public Utilities Commission decision allowing the utility to recoup the cost of increased fire insurance premiums via rate increases. The CPUC on Dec. 15, 2011, authorized SDG&E to increase customer rates by $63.29 million to make up for liability insurance and deductible increases arising from the destruction caused by wildfires in the fall of 2007, which were partially caused by malfunctioning utility equipment. Ruth Henricks\u2019 states in her Dec. 29 petition that the CPUC\u2019s rate recovery decision was faulty because SDG&E failed to prove a need to recoup the money from ratepayers. She alleged the commission failed to apply a legal standard to determine if there was an insurance market failure as SDG&E claimed. \u201cIt was not enough for SDG&E\u2019s staff to simply proclaim one existed,\u201d she claimed. Utility spokesperson Stephanie Donovan said the company believed regulators\u2019 decision was sound and would be upheld. \u201cWe feel very confident that the commission made the right decision when they voted 4-1 to approve our rate recovery at the end of last year,\u201d she said. The utility maintains that its fire insurance costs rose significantly in the wake of a series of wildfires in October, 2007, during which two people were killed and about 198,000 acres of land burned. Two subsequent investigations determined that downed SDG&E power lines were at least partially responsible for the origin or spread of the three fires. Henricks\u2019 attorney, Michael Aguirre, said the utility\u2019s trouble in obtaining insurance wasn\u2019t, as SDG&E says, a consequence of dramatic changes in the insurance market. \u201cIt wasn\u2019t a market failure, it was a market reaction to the fact that SDG&E had maintained their power lines in an unsafe way,\u201d he said. Aguirre, who was the San Diego city attorney from 2004 to 2008, added, \u201cIf you cause the fire, then why should the ratepayers pay for your bad management?\u201d He said that shareholders should bear the costs. \u201cSDG&E has never been found to be liable or negligent or quote-unquote to blame in the fires,\u201d countered Donavan The utility has settled hundreds of lawsuits that were brought against it after the fires, and a small handful could go to trial within the year. Henricks\u2019 petition asks the court to set aside the CPUC\u2019s decision. The CPUC approved a two-year, phased in rate recovery plan, which kicked in this month. The impact on customers\u2019 bills is expected to be between five and 10 cents per month for those using 500 kWh per month and 35 to 40 cents a month for those using, 1,000 kWh, Donovan said.