The California Public Utilities Commission this morning (November 20) approved a deal in which ratepayers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) will get socked with $3.3 billion in costs resulting from San Onofre errors that led to the nuclear facility's shutdown.
Then, typical of this agency, the utilities commission put out a news release claiming that consumers are getting a refund. Yes, consumers will get a $1.45 billion refund, says San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre, but they will also get hit with new costs of $3.3 billion. Before the decision, Aguirre filed a suit in federal court charging that the utilities commission was planning to take money from customers in violation of the Fifth Amendment's just compensation concept.
The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility might appeal the decision, according to San Diegan Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight, who attended the hearing in San Francisco. The utilities commission made last minute changes in the final document (made in red) but the voting commissioners really didn't have time to read the new document, says Lutz. The public could not comment on it.
Commissioners "voted before they could digest the changes," says Lutz, who, like many other ratepayers of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, believe the whole thing has been rigged all along. The public was told that the original proposal was a settlement agreement among Edison, SDG&E, the CPUC's Office of Ratepayer Advocates (which supposedly represents ratepayers) and San Francisco–based purported activist the Utility Reform Network (TURN).
Commissioner Mike Florio was a longtime lawyer for TURN. Between 2008 and 2012, TURN received $12.6 million in intervenor fees from the public utilities commission. The second biggest recipient, San Diego's Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN) got $3 million. (Intervenor fees are funds paid to groups that present information at commission hearings.)
Michael Peevey, president of the commission and former president of Edison, has been criticized for doling out juicy intervenor fees to groups that play ball with the commission, and little or nothing to groups that fight hard for their clients. Aguirre and Lutz believe CPUC commissioners were steering the decision along from the outset — in fact, not permitting a study to be done of the accident causing the shutdown. Such a study is necessary under commission rules, says Aguirre.
After the decision was made, the commission put out a news release with the headline: “CPUC APPROVES SAN ONOFRE SETTLEMENT THAT RETURNS $1.45 BILLION TO CONSUMERS.” There was no mention whatsoever of the $3.3 billion ratepayers would have to cough up. The CPUC's news release even claimed consumers got a better deal than utilities. Lutz, however, notes that the quick passage of the measure was "astonishing but not surprising. The utilities are in control. They got 100 percent of what they wanted."
Says Aguirre, "The federal court and not the CPUC will decide whether ratepayers have to pay. The CPUC has abandoned its duty to protect ratepayers. The news release is false."