CPUC

Utilities commission says call was appropriate, critics say regulator is compromised.

By Jeff McDonald | Oct. 21, 2015 – 8:22 p.m.

As criticism mounted last year of a settlement deal that billed utility customers for 70 percent of the $4.7 billion cost of failure at the San Onofre nuclear plant, the state judge assigned to the case reached out to plant owner Southern California Edison.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which employs Administrative Law Judge Melanie Darling, says the call was appropriate, and even an efficient way to oversee the plant’s shutdown.

Critics say it’s more evidence of improper backchannel dealings that have sparked numerous legal actions and criminal investigations.

Edison disclosed the June 2014 consultation this week as part of 31 pages detailing its communications with regulators. The documents show the judge lauding Edison public relations efforts and Edison expressing shock at the behavior of its adversaries.

According to the company, Judge Melanie Darling talked to executive Russ Worden about whether the settlement pact needed more work. He “responded that, to his understanding, SCE did not believe the record needed to be reopened.”

Or, as Worden put it in handwritten notes the company also released, “Emphatically No.”

The judge endorsed the settlement, which was approved later by the California Public Utilities Commission in November 2014. The deal has since come under fire — even from consumer groups that approved it — because of a constant stream of recent revelations about potentially improper communications that helped shape it.

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