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Judge: Southern California Edison, State Commission Had Unreported Communications

Photo caption: The San Onofre nuclear power plant is shown from Interstate 5, Feb. 2, 2015.

Photo by Alison St John

The San Onofre nuclear power plant is shown from Interstate 5, Feb. 2, 2015.

An administrative law judge ruled Wednesday that Southern California Edison executives engaged in 10 unreported communications with the California Public Utilities Commission regarding the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which is against the agency's rules.

The ruling by PUC Administrative Law Judge Melanie Darling concerned communications between March 26, 2013, and June 17, 2014, when officials were discussing how to divvy costs of retiring the nuclear plant on the northern San Diego County coastline.

The violations, if eventually upheld, could result in fines of up to $50,000 per day per offense, according to the PUC.

Rosemead-based Edison did not immediately offer comment on the ruling.

Edison, the operator and majority owner of the plant, its partner, San Diego Gas & Electric, and ratepayer groups reached an agreement last year on the shares of the costly shutdown process that the utilities and customers would bear.

It was later discovered that an Edison executive and former Commissioner Michael Peevey had a conversation about the then-proposed deal while at an industry conference in Poland, leading to accusations that the deal was fixed. Peevey later resigned.

The San Onofre plant hasn't operated since January 2012, when a small, non-injury leak occurred in one of the two reactors. An investigation later pinned the blame on poorly designed steam generators from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan that had been installed a couple of years earlier.

SCE executives eventually decided to retire the reactors instead of pursuing a costly restart process.

The judge ordered Edison to show by Aug. 20 why it shouldn't be sanctioned. She also barred all parties and interested persons from ex parte communications on the subject matter of the ruling.

All parties are permitted to submit statements recommending actions the CPUC could take, however.

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