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Customer Advocates Accuse Regulators Of Capitulation In San Onofre Probe

Ratepayer groups are accusing California regulators of caving into utility pressure by narrowing their inquiry into the shutdown of San Onofre nuclear plant.

Groups say California Public Utilities Commission is pulling a fast one on ratepayers by narrowing scope of investigation.

San Onofre was shut down one year ago this week after a tiny radioactive leak was discovered in a new steam generator.

California regulators promised in October to look into whether customers should pay up to $900 million annually for maintenance, personnel and Edison's return on investment in the plant. But regulators changed course this week when they announced they would put off any decision on refunds for customers until 2014 or 2015.

California Public Utilities Spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the immediate issue is to clarify whether refunds could legally happen now. The utilities that own San Onofre -- Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric --argue regulators can't order any refunds on the outage because it constitutes "impermissible retroactive rulemaking."

Ratepayer groups say that's not true. They say the law allows state regulators to order that customers stop being charged immediately for San Onofre.

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