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Consumer Group Withdraws Support For San Onofre Settlement

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A San Francisco-based consumer group called on the California Public Utilities Commission to withdraw a $4.7 billion settlement that stuck ratepayers with the majority of the costs to shut down San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Photo credit: Associated Press

This June 30, 2011, file photo shows beach-goers walking on the sand near the San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Clemente.

The Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco-based consumer group, called on the California Public Utilities Commission Wednesday to withdraw a $4.7 billion settlement that stuck ratepayers with the majority of the costs to shut down San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The group, known as TURN, originally supported the settlement.

TURN’s about-face comes six months after it became public that former PUC President Michael Peevey met secretly in Poland in 2013 with an executive from San Onofre majority owner Southern California Edison to discuss a framework for a settlement.

“President Peevey’s frequent secret talks with Edison executives during the course of the San Onofre negotiations tainted the settlement process and were not disclosed to TURN or the public until recently,” said TURN in a statement released Wednesday. “Had Edison disclosed these communications in a timely manner, the information might have had an impact on settlement negotiations, although it is not clear that the outcome would have been materially different due to established law and precedents.”

The Poland meeting was revealed after state investigators found notes about San Onofre’s defective replacement steam generators on a Poland hotel’s stationery during a search of Peevey’s home in January.

PUC officials and utility executives are the target of federal and state probes for alleged inappropriate contact and possible influence peddling.

TURN said setting aside the settlement would help restore the PUC’s credibility.

“Ongoing federal and state investigations that caused the disclosure of the Warsaw note may lead to criminal indictments,” said staff attorney Matt Freedman. “The recently revealed proof of Peevey’s involvement has compelled us to take this highly unusual step.”

In response to TURN's request, Southern California Edison released a statement saying it's disappointed.

"SCE reiterated that the settlement it negotiated with consumer groups is fair and reasonable, was properly negotiated and is in the public interest," the statement read. "The settlement was adopted late last year, with support from a coalition of labor, consumer and community-based organizations. SCE continues to believe there is no basis for the CPUC to set aside the decision approving the settlement. TURN argues that the CPUC should return the case to litigation, even though a litigated outcome may not (according to TURN's own pleading) produce an outcome that is better for ratepayers."

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Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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