Southern California Edison called a judge's ruling that the utility violated rules in its communication with state regulators a "disappointment" and defended its actions, saying executives did not realize they had done anything wrong.
In a statement late Wednesday night, Edison noted that state administrative law Judge Melanie Darling rejected most of the 72 allegations of wrongdoing by the utility.
Darling ruled on Wednesday that Edison should have reported 10 communications between the utility and the California Public Utilities Commission. She has given Edison until Aug. 20 to respond to the ruling, for which the utility faces as much as $34 million in penalties for contempt.
"SCE's leadership strives to be conscientious and comply with the commission's rules," said Pedro Pizarro, Edison's president. "Based on the information we had at the time, we did not believe these communications were reportable. We're disappointed that the ruling reaches a different conclusion."
In the ruling, Darling found that Edison, its officers, agents or attorneys engaged in 10 unreported communications with one or more commissioners or their personal advisors. The communications, Darling said, related to the payment of costs from the January 2012 shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant.
Edison shut down the plant after a small amount of radiation leaked in one of two replacement steam generators. The generators were installed in 2010 and 2011, and inspections after the leak found that both were faulty.
The utility permanently closed San Onofre in 2013.
The closure led to a settlement agreement approved by the PUC. Under the deal, the plant's owners, Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., would pay $1.4 billion in reactor closing costs; their customers were left on the hook for an additional $3.3 billion.
The judge's ruling stems from communication between former commission President Michael Peevey and Edison's then-executive vice president for external relations, Stephen Pickett, during a dinner meeting in Warsaw, Poland.
Notes from Pickett's meeting with Peevey, the judge said, indicated that they discussed how costs might be allocated in a settlement if San Onofre were to permanently close. The notes came to light in April 2015 when they were filed in connection with a federal lawsuit.