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Utility scandal may impact nuke settlement

Union Tribune (2014-10-24) Morgan Lee

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More Info: California Public Utilities Commission, Coalition To Decommission San Onofre, San Bruno Explosion, Shut San Onofre, Stop The Unfair Settlement

A San Diego-based consumer coalition wants placed on hold a multibillion-dollar settlement proposal for nuclear plant costs at San Onofre, in response to revelations of cozy relations between a utility and two state utility commissioners in a separate case.

The Coalition to Decommission San Onofre on Friday requested a stay until further inquiries are completed into a judge-swapping scandal at the California Public Utilities Commission involving Pacific Gas & Electric executives.

PG&E sought to have a particular judge assigned to a proceeding on natural gas and transmission rates in email exchanges with Commission President Michael Peevey and Commissioner Mike Florio and their staffs, according to records released by the company. The utilities commission also has been under fire for its handling of the deadly 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in Northern California at San Bruno, where city officials released emails as evidence that Peevey and Florio coddled PG&E in the aftermath of the disaster.

Peevey and Florio, meanwhile, have directly overseen two years of deliberations on the shutdown of San Onofre and who should pay for an estimated $4.6 billion in leftover cost and unrecovered investments — utility customers or corporate stockholders.

Peevey was questioned at a hearing in May about his role, if any, in reaching a settlement agreement on San Onofre, and whether he had any meetings with nuclear plant operator Southern California Edison. Peevey swore and angrily refused to answer.

The five-member commission is poised to vote next month on a settlement that charges Southern California utility customers $3.3 billion, over the objections of the Coalition to Decommission San Onofre and several other consumer groups and attorneys. San Diego Gas & Electric owns a 20 percent stake in the plant, leaving its customers responsible for a similar share of plant costs.

The utilities commission has been asked to release any communications that Florio and Peevey and their staffs might have had with representatives of San Onofre plant operator Southern California Edison dating back to 2005, in a request filed by attorney Michael Aguirre on behalf of San Diego-area utility customers.

Raymond Lutz, director of the Coalition to Decommission San Onofre, said consideration of the San Onofre settlement agreement should be put on hold until the commission complies with that records request.

The commission responded in late September that a records search was under way but could take a “considerable” amount of time, without providing a more exact time estimate.

San Onofre was retired in 2013 because of the rapid degradation of newly installed steam generators. Edison was cited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for failing to properly check the design of the generators. Generator manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was cited for flawed computer codes used in the design phase.

The California utilities commission suspended its examination of plant costs in April to consider the settlement proposal before delving into Edison’s responsibility in the plant breakdown. Opponents of the settlement say that suspension and other procedural maneuvers have helped Edison strike a deal that favors its shareholders over utility customers.

Peevey and Florio have recused themselves from PG&E’s gas transmission and storage proceeding and other decisions related to the San Bruno explosion.


Topic revision: r5 - 31 Mar 2015, RaymondLutz
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