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Controversy Remains After San Onofre Plant Settlement

San Onofre
The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, near the northwestern-most corner of San Diego County, has been a lightning rod for controversy.

Opponents of a proposed settlement related to the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station said on May 22 the head of the California Public Utilities Commission has publicly made comments that indicate he had private meetings with regulators and when questioned about it at a hearing erupted in a profane outburst.

Michael R. Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, when quizzed by former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre at a May 14 commission meeting, said, “I’m not here to answer your goddamned questions. Now shut up,” according to video posted on YouTube by Citizens Oversight Committee.

Ray Lutz of Citizens Oversight Committee, which opposes the settlement announced in March, said, “So what that says to me is you wouldn’t blow up like this unless you have a guilty conscience or something, so I think he has a lot of explaining to do.”

Lutz noted Peevey is a former employee of Southern California Edison.

“He has a question on the table. Did he meet with (utility officials)? And he’s refused to answer,” Lutz said. “It’s interesting, though. He has some integrity. He didn’t just lie. He told the guy to shut up instead.”

Christopher Chow, a spokesman for the commission, said Aguirre likely elicited the angry response because he was “improperly” posing questions and statements at the May 14 hearing.

Peevey issued the following statement:

“The proposed settlement was conceived and agreed to by the settling parties without any knowledge by me of its contents. I remain focused on evaluating it on its merits. My commitment since joining the CPUC more than 12 years ago is to serve the public interest by promoting safety and ensuring reliable utility service at reasonable rates.”

When the settlement was announced in March, officials said it would relieve Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric customers of paying $1.4 billion in utility charges. The settlement was reached with the Utility Reform Network, state Office of Ratepayer Advocates and the two utility companies that own the power plant.

The commission must approve the settlement, which will be discussed at a hearing June 16 in Costa Mesa.

The settlement’s advocates argue it would shift the financial burden to the shareholders of the utilities.

The Citizens Oversight Committee calls it a $3.3 billion bailout of Edison and that it will cost ratepayers on average $200 per person instead of providing refunds. The group is calling for a 10 percent reduction in electricity rates.

One of the power plant’s reactors was shut down two years ago because of a small leak. Another reactor was undergoing maintenance at the time and was never restarted.

Edison decided to shut down the plant last June.

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