A group of utility consumers announced a federal lawsuit Friday against the California Public Utilities Commission and one of the state’s largest electric companies, alleging they wrongly billed customers for power that was never generated.
The dispute is over electricity rates charged by Southern California Edison, the majority owner of the San Onofre nuclear power plant that was shut down in 2012 due to a failed steam-generator replacement project.
The 28-page complaint seeks more than $3 billion in restitution to more than 17 million customers and an injunction against what plaintiffs said was an improper taking of property by the utility and regulators.
A utilities commission spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about the lawsuit. Edison officials declined to comment on the allegations.
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego by former City Attorney Michael Aguirre and law partner Maria Severson. It does not name as a defendant San Diego Gas & Electric Co., which owns a minority stake of the San Onofre power plant.
Plaintiffs said they filed the case in federal court to ensure a more impartial hearing of their grievances.
“It’s clear the utility has completely rigged the system in their favor,” said Ray Lutz of the nonprofit group Citizens Oversight. “They didn’t even have a hearing in the investigation (of the San Onofre shutdown) to find out who was at fault.”
The federal lawsuit come days ahead of a critical decision by state regulators, who are scheduled to consider a proposed settlement in the San Onofre case next week.
That agreement was hashed out between consumer advocates, the state’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates and executives from Edison and SDG&E earlier this year.
The plan calls for Edison and SDG&E customers to cover $3.3 billion of shutdown costs, with the utilities bearing another $1.4 billion. It has been sharply criticized by consumer groups that were not part of the settlement discussions, including Citizens Oversight.
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, situated on the San Diego County coast just north of Oceanside, was shut down in January 2012 after a series of recently replaced steam generators failed.
Utility executives sought to restart the plant for more than a year until deciding last year to shutter the facility permanently.
The lawsuit, which has no legal effect on the settlement plan that will be debated Thursday, alleges that customers have been forced to pay for power from San Onofre even though none is being generated.
It includes allegations that top state regulators are too cozy with utilities to adequately protect consumers.
Exhibits attached to the complaint show a series of emails between commission officials and Pacific Gas & Electric executives that appear to show regulators working to benefit the companies they police.
“Please, please check,” a PG&E official wrote in January to the top aide to commission President Michael Peevey about the selection of a judge in a rate-setting case. “This is a major problem for us.”
The aide responded, “Take a deep breath — I am working on it.”
Both the executive and Peevey’s aide were dismissed after the emails were released publicly.
PG&E acknowledged in a filing submitted to the commission in October that company officials repeatedly engaged in improper communications with commissioners.
In addition to Citizens Oversight, plaintiffs in the federal case include Ruth Henricks, Nicole Murray Ramirez, Niel Lynch, Hugh Moore David Keeler, Francis Karl Holtzman and Roger Johnson.
|Title||Lawsuit alleges phantom power billings -- Advocates say customers pay for nonexistent San Onofre energy|
|Author||Jeff Mc Donald|
|Note||Related to: Peevey Party Protest|
|Keywords||California Public Utilities Commission, Nuclear Energy, San Onofre Settlement Federal Case, Shut San Onofre, Stop The Unfair Settlement|
|Media Type||Linked Article|
|Author Name Sortable|