Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
May 10, 2016 – 3:33 PM

  • San Onofre nuclear power plant shut down
  • Secret deal stuck ratepayers with most costs
  • As probe continues, PUC reopens the case

The long-simmering scandal in the state Public Utilities Commission over a secret deal to stick ratepayers with most of the costs of shutting down the San Onofre nuclear power plant just got more interesting.

The PUC announced Monday that it is reopening the deal that its former president, Michael Peevey, privately negotiated in 2013 with a Southern California Edison executive, mostly during a 2013 meeting in Warsaw’s Hotel Bristol.

As part of the $4.7 billion settlement, which would cost ratepayers an estimated $3.3 billion, SCE donated $25 million to a Peevey-sponsored UCLA climate change research project.

After the secret negotiations surfaced, Peevey resigned, the PUC fined SCE $16.7 million for failing to disclose the “ex parte” negotiations with him, and the state Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation. It focuses not only on Peevey, a former SCE president before his PUC appointment, but fellow Commissioner Michael Florio, who was overseeing the San Onofre case, and PUC Administrative Law Judge Melanie Darling.

“There is probable cause to believe that Michael Peevey … used his position to influence SCE’s commitment of millions of dollars to UCLA to fund a research program,” says an affidavit from a Department of Justice investigator in support of a search warrant request. The agent, Reye Eugene Diaz, also declared that Peevey and SCE executive Stephen Pickett “conspired to engage in prohibited ex parte communications regarding the closure of a nuclear facility, to the advantage of SCE and to the disadvantage of other interested parties.”

Meanwhile, former San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre, now in private practice, launched his own investigation, pressing the PUC to reopen the case because some of the burden from the San Onofre closure would fall on ratepayers of San Diego Gas and Electric, a part-owner of the plant.

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