Utilities Commission lays down the law and bars Edison and SDG&E from overly redacting documents for public review.

By Andrea Papagianis

A picture of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station from August 2012. Photo by Andrea Swayne

Rules were laid out on Monday for the investigation into the year-long power outage of the San Onofre plant, to determine whether or not utility customers should continue to pay for the non-operational nuclear generator.

The proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission will investigate the shutdown of the nuclear generating facility and “the resulting effects of the provision of safe and reliable electric service at just and reasonable rates,” according to the scoping order filed Monday, which also set a tentative procedural schedule.

On January 21, 2012, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station stopped producing power.

But one year later, utility bills of residents in Southern California still reflect a rate base—used to determine utility rates—as if the plant were fully operational.

Plant owners Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric argue that the commission is legally barred from ordering any reduction in rates, as a result of an extended outage, until the utility’s next rate review in 2015.

And the utility companies maintain that even if refunds are required by the commission, customers would not see anything until after the 2015 rate review.

Edison and SDG&E have until February 25 to file legal briefs to address these issues.

The ruling rejected a blanket protection order request—made individually by Edison and SDG&E—to redact information each utility deemed proprietary or confidential from public view.

As stated in the CPUC ruling, all public versions of documents “shall be carefully prepared to redact only the actual claimed confidential information, not whole paragraphs and pages surrounding the information.” The order was written by Commissioner Michel Florio and Melanie Darling, the administrative law judge assigned to oversee the proceedings.

The tentatively set schedule will include four phases of investigation, which commission members have determined will be the most efficient course of action, according to the ruling.

During the initial phase of the investigation, the commission will examine whether recorded expenditures for SONGS in 2012 were reasonable and necessary and review the expenditures and effectiveness of Edison’s community outreach and emergency preparedness efforts.

Additionally the commission will evaluate the nature and effects of the steam generator failures, in order to determine if Edison’s removal of fuel from Unit #3 was necessary.

The utilities commission is expected to deliver a decision as soon as July. California Public Utilities Commission will hold two public hearings

As part of its investigation, the California Public Utilities Commission will hold two public meetings on Southern California Edison’s response—both operational and financial—to the SONGS outages.

The hearings will take place on Thursday, February 21 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Ave., Costa Mesa.

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