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Union Tribune (2014-08-15) Morgan Lee

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More Info: California Public Utilities Commission, Shut San Onofre, Stop The Unfair Settlement

A new standoff has emerged in deliberations over who should pay for the breakdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Two consumer advocates have urged the California Public Utilities Commission to allow a nuclear safety consultant hired by the agency to finish his probe into causes and responsibilities in the San Onofre outage. Owners of the plant on Wednesday urged the commission to collect no further evidence until it rules on a proposed settlement in the case.

In December, consultant Robert Budnitz provided the commission with a preliminary report that didn’t address what errors were made at the facility, located in north San Diego County, and what might have been done to avoid them.

The California Public Utilities Commission had hired Budnitz, of the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in September to help it assess complex technical problems at San Onofre, including causes of and responsibilities for the shutdown in January 2012.

The commission suspended its investigation in April to consider a proposed settlement that would charge Southern California utility customers $3.3 billion for leftover plant costs and investments.

Supporters of the deal said it would save consumers an additional $1.4 billion in potential charges.

Opponents said the settlement favors utility investors and would be unfair without some investigation into what role the facility’s operator, Southern California Edison, may have played in the outage.

Attorney Michael Aguirre, an advocate for one representative utility customer, and the Coalition to Decommission San Onofre have asked the commission to resume the investigation.

“I think (the commission) really needs to have his report in order to evaluate the settlement,” said Ray Lutz of the Coalition to Decommission San Onofre.

Edison and plant co-owner San Diego Gas & Electric said the commission can approve the settlement as reasonable without compiling a record on the cause of steam-generator damage and whether Edison acted prudently.

“The commission encourages settlements precisely to avoid the need to expend (special interest) party and commission time and resources,” according to the utilities. “There is no basis for the notion that the commission has a duty to investigate prudence for its own sake. Instead, the commission’s duty is to ensure that rates are fair. The commission will fulfill this duty if it approves the settlement.”

The utilities’ position is supported by two consumer groups that helped broker the settlement proposal — the Utility Reform Network and the California Office of Ratepayer Advocates — along with several interest groups representing organized labor, environmentalists and the interests of ethnic minorities.

The commission has declined to release some emails sent between its staff and Budnitz, asserting that it has a right to confidential information in its deliberative processes.

At an evidentiary hearing in May, commission President Michael Peevey swore and angrily refused to answer questions about whether he had any communications with Edison as the company reached its settlement agreement on San Onofre.


Topic revision: r5 - 31 Mar 2015, RaymondLutz
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