San Onofre Settlement Deal Could Be Headed To Court

Thursday, August 17, 2017
By Amita Sharma
Credit: Associated Press
Above: Surfers walk along a beach nearby the San Onofre nuclear power plant, July 19, 2012.

Now that talks have failed to produce a new deal on who should pay for the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station’s closure, court may be the next stop.

The plant’s majority owner, Southern California Edison, told state regulators this week that attempts to renegotiate a settlement over San Onofre broke down. The company urged the California Public Utilities Commission to back the existing settlement, which charges customers $3.3 billion dollars for the shuttered plant even though it is no longer producing electricity.

“The settlement is appropriate and should stand,” said SCE President Ron Nichols in a statement this week. “It ensured our customers do not pay for the faulty steam generators from the time they failed and the plant was no longer providing power.”

San Onofre was shut down following a radioactive leak from those generators.

In 2014, the CPUC approved the terms of the San Onofre settlement that charged customers 70 percent of the costs to close the plant. It was later disclosed that the agreement nearly matched an outline penned by a Southern California Edison executive and state regulators during a secret meeting in Poland.

State regulators directed Edison to meet with opposing sides to possibly broker a new settlement after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said it would hear consumer lawyer Mike Aguirre's lawsuit to overturn the deal.

After talks broke down, Aguirre asked the Ninth Circuit this week to order the case be heard before a federal judge in San Diego.

Aguirre said if that happens, he plans to question Edison executives and state regulators under oath and pursue documents. He argued the evidence will show Edison knew its equipment was faulty before it was installed. That same equipment sprung a radioactive leak at San Onofre.

And he said records will also show that state officials — instead of holding Edison accountable — helped stick ratepayers with a multi-billion dollar tab.

“Once your child is caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he’s got to let loose of the cookies,” Aguirre said. “That’s the problem with Edison. They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and it’s $4 billion and they don’t want to let loose. And somebody big, somebody powerful like the federal government, the law, has to step forward and tell them let loose of those cookies."

Edison declined an interview request on grounds it does not comment on litigation.