A public perception that the process to settle financial responsibilities for the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was tainted is unfounded and should not be grounds to overturn the deal, plant majority owner Southern California Edison said Thursday.
In a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission, lawyers for the utility responded to Wednesday’s demand by The Utility Reform Network for the CPUC to reconsider its approval of the 2014 agreement, which apportioned several billion dollars in costs among the utilities and ratepayers.
SCE said TURN doesn’t dispute the commission’s finding that the deal was in the public interest.
A TURN lawyer said the commission needs to address “the public perception that the outcome was a product of intervention by former (CPUC) President Michael Peevey.”
It was disclosed after the settlement was reached that Peevey had pre-negotiation discussions about the deal with an SCE executive.
The plant on the northern San Diego County coastline hasn’t operated since a small, non-injury leak in January 2012 that was later blamed on poorly designed steam generators manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan. Rather than follow a costly startup procedure, Edison opted to shutter the facility for good.
A settlement on how to divvy up the costs was reached last year by TURN, the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates, Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns 20 percent of the plant and received one-fifth of its power.
According to TURN and the ORA, the deal retroactively prevented the utilities’ customers from having to pay for the steam generators starting on Feb. 1, 2012, one day after the shutdown. The financial burden was shifted to the utilities’ shareholders.
The deal was later approved by the CPUC.
TURN said the terms were better than those initially proposed by Peevey, but reopening the case could help restore the commission’s credibility.
However, disclosure of Peevey’s discussions with Edison might have impacted the talks, according to TURN. The organization said the outcome still might not have been “materially different,” given established law and precedents.
In its filing, Edison said any public perception that the negotiations were tainted “Is unfounded and provides no justification for vacation the decision approving the settlement.”
The commission can’t reconsider a decision just because a party “disavows its voluntarily assumed obligations,” Edison’s lawyers wrote.
SCE said those who want approval of the settlement reversed must meet “an extraordinarily high standard of showing a clear error.” The CPUC has denied such requests in the past, according to the utility.
— City News Service
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