The president of the scandal-rocked Public Utilities Commission has rejected a call from a powerful lawmaker to reopen a financial settlement that apportioned nearly $5 billion in costs for the June 2013 permanent closure of the damaged San Onofre nuclear power plant.
In letter to the PUC last month, Lakewood Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, the chairman of the Utilities and Commerce Committee, said “it is imperative to investigate and scrutinize the entire settlement process” to assure it was “legitimate and uncorrupted.”
On Thursday in a six-page response, PUC President Michael Picker called the settlement “appropriate under the commission’s rules” and “supported by the record developed in the proceeding.”
What’s more, he added, the settlement avoided years of prolonged legal battles while providing some financial relief to ratepayers.
The agreement’s most vocal critic, San Diego consumer attorney Michael Aguirre, immediately denounced Picker’s written comments as “riddled with errors,” based on a flawed record and an exercise in “stonewalling.”
Rendon was not available for comment, a spokesman said.
The settlement was negotiated confidentially a year ago by the owners of the defunct plant, Southern California Edison Co., San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and several ratepayer and environmental organizations.
The agreement, which was unanimously approved by the five-member commission in November, assigns approximately $3.3 billion of the shut-down costs to ratepayers in Southern and Central California and $1.4 billion to the two utilities.
The agreement almost immediately encountered fierce criticism from San Diego County consumer advocates and nuclear power opponents around the state. But the debate got even hotter in February when Edison publicly notified the PUC of a possibly improper discussion between then-PUC President Michael Peevey and an Edison vice president.
The chat, which touched on the basic outline of the eventual settlement, took place in March 2014 during an energy conference in Warsaw.
Twitter: @Marc Lifsher