The California Public Utilities Commission has ruled the plan to pay for the most expensive nuclear plant decommissioning in history is on hold.
The original deal to shutdown and cleanup the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was approved two years ago. It had Southern California ratepayers paying $3.3 billion to close the plant and billions more in the future to handle the cleanup.
In a ruling announced Tuesday, the Commission is asking all those involved in the original deal to meet again to “consider and provide additional recommendations.”
According to the CPUC, in the two year since the agreement was implemented “ratepayers have received significant benefits (both credits and refunds) through a series of complex calculations.” Still, ratepayers “should not be further disadvantaged as a result of Edison’s bad acts.”
This comes after a series of revelations in court hearings, commission hearings and media reports detailing secret meetings that took place in Warsaw, Poland between Michael Peevey a CPUC regulator and a Southern California Edison company executive Stephen Pickett.
SCE and SDG&E own the San Onofre plant. Peevey was a top SCE executive before he became president of the CPUC. San Onofre was shutdown in 2013 because of excessive wear of the 3,000 steam tubes that were part of the Mitsubishi steam generator.
The secret meeting in Warsaw came three months before SCE announced it was shutting down the San Onofre plant. Notes from that secret meeting were later seized in a raid on Peevey’s residence. Two of the handwritten documents appear to show a game plan for who pays what in the unexpected shutdown.
According to a published media report on the meeting, SCE said Pickett, “took notes at Mr. Peevey’s direction.”
Click here to see the handwritten notes.
The meeting in Warsaw happened before settlement discussions between SCE, SDG&E and consumer groups had begun. The revelations of the meeting gave the appearance the settlement deal was tilted in favor of the utilities, according to some consumer groups.
The CPUC fined SCE $16.74 million in penalties for “failing to disclose ex parte communications,” after the commission learned of and investigated the meeting between Peevey and Pickett. It said the company made “false and misleading statements under oath” which may have impacted the original agreement.
SCE argued then and now, the settlement was “reasonable, lawful and in the public interest.” According to the CPUC ruling, SDG&E “continues to assert that the Settlement remains reasonable in light of the record, consistent with the law and in the public interest.”
Click here to read the CPUC’s latest ruling that goes into detail about the factors and associated costs involved in the outage of the plant and its eventual shutdown.
Depending on who is making the claim, consumers either lost or gained benefits and millions of dollars from the original ruling.
According to the The Utility Reform Network, TURN, which signed off on the original agreement, “the adopted settlement should be set aside” because of the unreported communications between Peevey and Edison executives.
The Office of Ratepayer Advocates, ORA, the independent consumer watchdog within the CPUC, said “Edison’s failure to report ex parte contacts with Commission decision-makers adversely impacted the settlement discussions.” The group called it an “unfair advantage.”
Friends of the Earth, a global network of environmental activists, supports the position of SCE and SDG&E and said the settlement is in “the public interest.”
NBC 7 asked the California Attorney General’s office for comment in regards to the CPUC decision and the state investigation into Peevey. The agency was responsible for seizing the documents, including the Warsaw notes, when they raided the former regulator’s home in early 2015.
In an email, Kristin Ford, Deputy Communications Director for the Office, said, “I can't comment on ongoing investigations.”
When asked about the decision to redo the deal, Maureen Brown, a spokeswoman for SCE, said in an email, “Southern California Edison is disappointed in a ruling issued Tuesday by the assigned commissioner and an administrative law judge at the California Public Utilities Commission directing that SCE confer with other parties in the San Onofre nuclear plant proceeding regarding possible changes to the SONGS settlement that was unanimously approved by the CPUC in 2014. SCE continues to believe the settlement reflects an appropriate allocation of costs but will begin preparing to participate in the process spelled out in the ruling to schedule a meeting and confer with other parties by Jan. 31.”
SDG&E didn’t not immediately provide comment regarding Tuesday’s ruling.
SCE has until January 31, 2017 to set-up and hold a meeting for all involved.
There was a note at the end of CPUC’s ruling, warning all involved that “any and all ex parte communications with any decision maker or Commissioner advisors regarding all issues in this proceeding continue to be prohibited. Further, all communications with any Commissioner or Commissioner advisors regarding procedural matters also continue to be prohibited.”