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Ratepayer Advocates File To Stop Paying For San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

A ratepayer advocacy group is petitioning to stop the operators of the now closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station from charging ratepayers for the plant.

The Division of Ratepayer Advocates, an independent branch of the state’s Public Utilities Commission, wants the commission to act now to reduce what Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric are charging ratepayers for San Onofre.

Photo credit: Southern California Edison

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County is shown in this undated photo.

“We hope the commission sees the obvious," said Truman Burns of the DRA, "which is that the plant is shut down and it’s not being restarted, and now is the time to actually reduce rates for ratepayers."

Burns said more than $500 million a year is at stake in basic operating costs the operators continue to charge ratepayers. Plus, ratepayers are currently paying $115 million a year toward the defective steam generators installed in 2010 and 2011.

Those sums include profits that shareholders could reasonably expect from an operating plant, but which Burns said should be discontinued since the plant has not been operating for more than a year.

The steam generators cost about $700 million and ratepayers have so far paid less than half of that.

Burns said the operators should continue to be reimbursed by rate payers for costs related to maintaining safety and security at the plant now that it is shut down

Maureen Brown, a spokesperson for Edison, wrote that the motion is premature and the claims unfounded.

“SCE acted reasonably and looks forward to demonstrating this fact in the evidentiary hearings,” she wrote. “In the meantime, the CPUC has set rates beginning in January 2012 as 'subject to refund,' so no party is disadvantaged by permitting the commission's reviews to run their course."

The CPUC is engaged in a lengthy investigation of how much it is reasonable for the operators to charge ratepayers for San Onofre, because under state law, ratepayers should not be charged once a plant has been offline for more than nine months.

The DRA’s Truman Burns said the Public Utilities Commission board is not obliged to rule on the motion.

The motion is similar to one filed in February by San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre.

Aguirre indicated that if the CPUC does not issue refunds to ratepayers, his law firm intends to seek relief in federal court.

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