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San Diego Consumer Group Calls On PUC To Halt San Onofre Talks

Photo caption: Beachgoers walk on the sand near the San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Cl...

Photo credit: Associated Press

Beachgoers walk on the sand near the San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Clemente, June 30, 2011.

A San Diego consumer advocate group wants negotiations stopped over who should pay for the problems at the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The Citizens' Oversight Project said Friday the settlement should not be finalized until an investigation into two California Public Utilities Commission members is complete.

Commissioner Michael Peevey has already decided to step down after being linked to improper communications with Pacific Gas and Electric, the utility involved in the 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion.

According to an October article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "In one set of emails voluntarily released by PG&E this month, Peevey made it clear to PG&E executives that the utility was expected to cough up money to support projects and causes that Peevey championed, including funds to help finance a 100th anniversary celebration for the PUC in January 2011."

Peevey did not mention the communication when he announced his decision to step down at the end of his current term, the Chronicle reported.

Citizens' Oversight Project spokesman Ray Lutz said circumstantial evidence suggests the same kind of collusion is happening between other PUC commissioners and Southern California Edison, the operator of San Onofre.

"The commission works with the utilities on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis as if they’re the same company, the same department," Lutz said. "It’s not like they’re a regulator and a regulated industry. It’s like they’re working together and they’re blocking ratepayers."

Some ratepayer advocate groups have already signed off on the settlement to pay part of the $4.4 billion cost of prematurely shutting down the San Onofre plant. Under the agreement, ratepayers will cover $3.3 billion.

Lutz said the state utilities commission is pushing through the settlement to avoid an investigation into who was to blame for the faulty steam generators, which caused the plant to permanently shut down last year. The plant first went offline in 2012 when premature tube wear in the generators caused a small radiation leak.

"We believe the settlement should be thrown out, and we should still have the investigation, of course, because what they’ve done is architect a settlement without ever getting to the bottom of what happened," he said.

The PUC could make a final decision on the settlement as soon as Nov. 20.

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