California Chief Regulator Defends San Onofre Nuclear Settlement

The head of the California Public Utilities Commission defended a settlement over costs related to the early shutdown of a nuclear power plant that has been called into question by consumer groups.

“I don’t see too many clean wins at the CPUC, but this is satisfactory in my mind,” CPUC President Michael Picker said on Thursday in an interview in Sacramento, California. “The settlement is basically reasonable and meets the test of law.”

The Utility Reform Network and the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, a division of the California Public Utilities Commission, have said they no longer support a deal they agreed to over who should pay for the retirement of the San Onofre nuclear plant, owned by Edison International. The groups voiced their objection after revelations of back-channel communications between Edison and the CPUC, which was headed at the time by Michael Peevey.

Earlier this month, a CPUC judge found that Edison broke rules by failing to disclose the communications to the commission. Edison said on Thursday it didn’t believe it engaged in talks that were reportable aside from one meeting which it subsequently disclosed, according to a statement from the Rosemead, California-based company.

In November 2014, the commission approved a deal that it said would save customers $1.45 billion, part of the cost of closing San Onofre. The shuttered reactors are located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.

“Nobody has brought forward an action based on some evidence that there is a defect of law or fact in the settlement that would really allow us to take action,” Picker said. “People have made public statements and the facts that they point to don’t seem to be related to the settlement.”

TURN and the ratepayer advocate didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.