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Ratepayer Advocate Changes Mind On San Onofre Settlement Deal

Aired 4/9/14 on KPBS News.

Citizens' Oversight Projects will not sign on to a deal outlining who pays the bill for the San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown.

A prominent ratepayer advocate is changing his mind about the proposed settlement designed to decide who pays for the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at San Onofre State Beach in a 2012 photo.

San Diego resident Ray Lutz of Citizens' Oversight Projects came out of last month's settlement talks feeling good about the deal. Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric hailed the $1.4 billion that ratepayers were not going to pay.

A company statement from SDG&E's CEO Jeffrey Martin said, "The settlement ensures that customers will not have to pay for San Onofre's faulty steam generators post-shutdown and also allows shareholders to recoup the majority of their non-steam generator investment in the plant."

Lutz liked that customers wouldn't foot the complete bill for replacing the steam generators, but, he said, the more he reviewed who was going to pay for the shutdown, the less he liked it.

"After looking at it and studying it, it took a little bit of time, I do think we should be a little bit more fair to the ratepayers," Lutz said. "This is extremely fair to the investor. They get all their money back and they're covered."

Citizens' Oversight will not sign on to the deal, and Lutz plans to offer a critique of the agreement to the California regulators who will consider the measure next month.

But the agreement still has supporters. Mark Toney is The Utility Reform Network's executive director. His agency helped negotiate the settlement, and he maintained the deal saves ratepayers money.

"The rate relief was needed now," Toney said. "And that in fact, it has more value now than waiting for three years from now. That anything we could get three years from now, the value would be diminished by the time lost."

But critics argue top Edison officials are cashing in, not ratepayers. The company's two top officers sold nearly $18 million worth of stock last week. That happened after settlement news boosted Edison's stock price to a seven year high.

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