Company saw window of opportunity to bring critics on board

By Morgan Lee
May 2, 2015 – 6:53 a.m.

Among the documents released this past week regarding closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant was an email showing executives with majority owner Southern California Edison cooperating with traditional adversaries with an eye toward “getting our money back.”

The flawed plant began leaking radiation and was closed on an emergency basis in January 2012.

By spring 2013, Edison was confronting revelations from a U.S. Senate committee about its ineffective role in overseeing the replacement of four massive steam generators at San Onofre. Then California’s top utility regulator suggested a framework for a settlement deal at a secret meeting in Poland.

Within days of the March 26, 2013, encounter at the Hotel Bristol in Warsaw, senior Edison executives convened to discuss a deal that might convert environmental and political antagonists into willing partners to take San Onofre offline permanently.

“We have a small window of opportunity to work with parties to implement a shutdown in exchange for getting our money back,” Edison Director of State Energy Regulation Michael Hoover wrote to a colleague.

The investor-owned utility would eventually line up an agreement that assigned 70 percent of the $4.7 billion of shutdown costs to customers.

Edison on Wednesday released dozens of emails and sworn statements by executives about previously undisclosed contacts with decision makers at the California Public Utilities Commission, at the request of the commission. Edison also submitted a log of 52 emails and documents that it considers relevant, but won’t release because of issues like attorney-client privilege.

The emails made public show the Rosemead-based utility shifted gears after the Warsaw meeting.

Edison called in a high-powered law firm, Munger, Tolles & Olson, that got the company through California’s 2000-2001 energy crisis.

It began lining up negotiations with The Utility Reform Network of San Francisco, noting the consumer group’s ties to leaders of union labor at the San Onofre plant.

By closing the plant, Edison might convert the anti-nuclear group Friends of the Earth into a settlement partner and stem a barrage of criticism and information requests from Sen. Barbara Boxer, then the top legislative oversight official for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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