By Jeff McDonald
March 16, 2015 – 5:41 p.m.

State lawmakers grilled the new California Public Utilities Commission president Monday, asking why utility customers are being charged billions of dollars for the failure and premature shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Members of the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce also wanted to know how a secret meeting in Warsaw, Poland, two years ago shaped the final settlement deal on San Onofre closure costs, and whether regulators would order Southern California Edison to release its emails with regulators.

Commission President Michael Picker said he was one of five regulators to approve charging ratepayers $3.3 billion of the $4.7 billion in San Onofre shutdown costs, and his vote was based strictly on the public record.

“These are very big, costly pieces of infrastructure,” Picker told committee members about the broken-down power plant. “I don’t know the best way to figure out how much you allow and how much you disallow.”

Picker took over in January, after predecessor Michael Peevey stepped down amid federal and state investigations into backchannel communications and possible favoritism between the commission and the utility companies it’s entrusted to oversee.

The new commission president did not say whether he supports ordering Edison to release its emails. He noted the criminal investigations that are now under way at the commission and said any request for emails or other documents would likely have to proceed through a lengthy Public Records Act request process.

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