San Onofre: Edison ordered to show costs for replacing generators

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In response to a complaint filed by a former San Diego city attorney, an administrative judge with the California Public Utilities Commission has ordered Southern California Edison to file an accounting of its costs to replace steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear plant by March 15.

The commission did not agree to immediately stop collecting funds from ratepayers for the project, however.


Issues with the replacement steam generators -- installed in 2010 and 2011 -- led to a shutdown of the plant that has now stretched on for more than a year. The utilities commission launched an investigation in October into the costs of the outage, which could eventually lead to money being refunded to customers.

The commission authorized Edison and SDG&E in 2005 to spend up to $782 million in ratepayer funds on the replacement project but agreed to review whether any costs exceeding $671 million were reasonable once Edison submitted its final project costs, which the company has not yet done.

In filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the companies reported having spent $774 million as of Sept. 30.

In the meantime, Edison received permission from the PUC to include costs of the steam generators on bills in 2011 and 2012 of $56.7 million and $115.2 million, respectively. A request to recover costs in 2013 is pending.

The commission currently looking at the plant’s 2012 costs is in the first phase of the investigation, slated to extend until July. It had planned to look at the costs of the steam generator replacement as part of a later phase.

Forrmer San Diego City Atty. Michael Aguirre, representing client Ruth Henricks, asked that the timetable be moved up and that the commission stop collecting money from the ratepayers for the steam generator replacement and refund the money collected already.

The administrative law judge’s ruling declined to take those steps but did set a binding date for Edison to file the application.

‘This sets a date certain, it requires SCE to come forward and show it was reasonable, given what we now know, and it puts the burden on SCE to show why the costs should be put in rates rather than on ratepayers to show why they should be taken out of rates,’ Aguirre said in an email, calling the ruling ‘the first substantive victory for ratepayers.’ In a separate complaint filed with the utilities commission, advocacy group Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility argued that Edison manipulated inflation calculations to recover more money from ratepayers for defective replacement steam generators, violating securities law and potentially overbilling customers.

The commission initially rejected the filing, saying the allegations fell outside its jurisdiction, but on Friday agreed to accept it.


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