Southern California Edison Disappointed In New Ruling On Ex Parte Communications

Southern California Edison, owners of the shut down San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, said Wednesday the company was disappointed with a ruling by a California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge regarding communications with state regulators that could result in millions of dollars in fines.

California Public Utilities Commission Administrative Law Judge Melanie Darling ruled Wednesday that SCE brass on 10 occasions communicated with regulators during negotiations over a cost-sharing plan that would assign monetary responsibilities for the company and customers regarding closure of the plant.

A settlement was reached in April 2014. It involved negotiations with SCE, minority stakeholder San Diego Gas & Electric Company, plus consumer and environmental groups. But after the settlement was approved by regulators, the company was accused of arranging a back-door deal vis a vis private communications that should have been made public.

Earlier this year, the Commission's Office of Ratepayer Advocates said the companies should return $648 million to consumers because executives had negotiated the deal in secret with regulators.

SCE was accused of 72 communications violations. The ruling Wednesday exonerated the company on 62 of those occasions, but said that 10 of the communications with regulators between March 26, 2013 and June 17, 2014 should have been reported. The commission also said SCE could be hit with fines of $50,000 a day for each of the 10 occasions. The L.A. Times said total fines were estimated at $34 million.

The ruling, however, does not re-open the negotiations for a new settlement, which was unanimously approved by the commission in 2014.

That deal assigned customers $3.3 billion and the company $1.4 billion to cover costs of closing the plant. Last week, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said SCE was seeking $7.6 billion as a settlement for defective steam generators that lead to the plants premature closure in 2013.

“SCE’s leadership strives to be conscientious and comply with the commission’s rules,” said Pedro Pizarro, president of SCE. “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.”

SCE said efforts to decommission San Onofre are guided by core principles of safety, stewardship and engagement. The company noted that it had established a Community Engagement Panel to support those principles.

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