Electricity ratepayers may get refunds because of San Onofre closure

SACRAMENTO — Southern California electricity ratepayers soon could get the first of possibly many refunds, stemming from the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Two state Public Utilities Commission administrative law judges last week issued a proposed decision, ordering Southern California Edison Co. to refund $74.2 million on its customers' 2012 bills and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. to refund $19.3 million.

The reason: Edison closed the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in January and not all its reported spending was reasonable or necessary, the judges wrote. Edison, they added, should have put the plant in "a preservation mode" rather than unrealistically pushing for a rapid restart.

In June, Edison permanently closed the two nuclear reactors near San Clemente because of defective steam generating units.

The judges' decision "is a first in a series that evaluates costs to ensure that customers don't pay for both the power plant that was shut down and the power that had to be purchased to replace it," said PUC Commissioner Mike Florio.

The commission, he said, "is considering hundreds of millions of dollars in additional refunds to customers resulting from replacement power costs, steam generator replacement costs and removing San Onofre from the rate base."

Refunds from the current judge's proposal, if approved by the five-member commission at a meeting next month, should start showing up on consumers' January 2014 bills.

Edison in a statement said it was "disappointed" by the proposed decision. "It would have been imprudent and unwise for Edison to lay off valuable technical staff in 2012," the company said.

More refunds

Electricity users aren't the only ones expected to get some extra cash. The State Compensation Insurance Fund, a government-created workers' compensation insurer, is giving a $100-million dividend to about 120,000 customers, mainly small and medium-sized employers. The payout averages about $800 per employer.

Including this year's dividend, the recently reorganized company, known as State Fund, will have returned a combined $250 million to policyholders over the last three years. State Fund is California's largest workers' compensation company with about a tenth of the market in 2012.

The announcement last week came only three days after the board announced a housecleaning, accepting the sudden resignations of Chief Executive Tom Rowe and Chief Financial Officer Dan Sevilla. State Fund declined to comment on the departures, other than to say they were "voluntary."

Some bad holiday news

About 220,000 Californians out of work for more than six months could lose weekly unemployment insurance benefits next month, according to state officials.

Unless Congress and President Obama cut a deal to continue paying for the program, these long-term unemployed Californians will no longer be eligible for up to $450 a week. Federally funded benefits will expire Dec. 28, leaving only 26 weeks of state-paid jobless assistance.


Twitter: @MarcLifsher

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