Deal left ratepayers to pay most of cost for premature shutdown of failed nuclear power plant

Jeff McDonald

By Jeff McDonald |
May 9, 2016 – 4:55 p.m.

State utility regulators on Monday reopened the agreement they approved in 2014 that assigned ratepayers the lion’s share of the multibillion-dollar cost for premature shutdown of the failed San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The action represents a significant turnaround for the California Public Utilities Commission, which stood behind the settlement agreement for 18 months amid growing criticism — even from parties to the $4.7 billion deal — that the process and the outcome were stacked against the public and for utility companies.

Reopening the deal could mean a better deal for utility customers. It could also prove an important test of the commission’s latest posture toward the power companies it regulates, as those companies have continued to say the deal was good for ratepayers and the process was above-board and open to the public.

To approve such a settlement, the commission must find that it is “reasonable in light of the whole record, consistent with law, and in the public interest.”

Since the commission approved the settlement, there have been repeated revelations about undisclosed meetings that helped form its substance — calling into question whether it was properly deemed reasonable in light of the whole record.

Commissioner Catherine J.K. Sandoval and Administrative Law Judge Maribeth Bushey said, in taking action to reopen the settlement, that it needs to be held up anew against that standard.

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