Southern California Edison Co. denied that a private meeting between one of its past executives and the state's former top utilities regulator influenced the company's nearly $5-billion settlement of costs covering the closed San Onofre nuclear power plant.
The settlement was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission last November. It calls for Edison and the plant's minority owner, San Diego Gas & Electric Co., to cover about $1.4 billion of the costs while their ratepayers shoulder about $3.3 billion.
"We did not negotiate this settlement with any CPUC decision-maker," SCE President Pedro Pizarro said in a statement Wednesday. "Our actions throughout the San Onofre settlement discussions were consistent with both the law and our ethical standards."
His comments came as SCE, a unit of Rosemead-based Edison International, filed emails and other internal documents with the utilities commission related to the settlement that were requested by regulators.
The request stemmed partly from criticism of a private meeting in March 2013 between now-retired Edison executive Stephen Pickett and Michael Peevey, who was commission president at the time, during an energy conference in Poland.
Critics maintained that the private meeting, which Edison first confirmed in February, violated PUC rules surrounding so-called ex-parte communications with regulators and thus called for the San Onofre settlement to be revisited or for financial penalties to be levied against Edison.
In a call with Wall Street analysts on Tuesday, Edison International Chairman Theodore Craver Jr. said, "Peevey's contact with us, and any subsequent contacts, did not have any influence on the parties who were actually involved in the settlement negotiations."
And in its filing with the commission on Wednesday, Edison said Pickett "had no authority to negotiate a settlement agreement and did not reach or attempt to reach with President Peevey any agreement, tentative or otherwise."
Edison and SDG&E negotiated the settlement mainly with two consumer groups, the Utility Reform Network (known as TURN) and the Office of Ratepayer Advocates.
Matt Freedman, a lawyer for TURN, said his organization's early reading of the documents that Edison filed Wednesday shows that "there were a number of unreported ex-parte contacts and that Edison violated the rules by not reporting those communications."
Edison declined to comment until it could review the specific contacts in question.
If Edison is found to have violated the rules, the utility should be subject to financial penalties that would benefit ratepayers, Freedman said.
But Edison said that "the rules that govern the communication process" between utilities and regulators "are ambiguous" and that it "welcomes the commission's call for a transparent process" for such contact.