Customer refunds proposed in nuclear-plant deal

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 28, 2014 at 12:33 am •  Published: March 28, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A lingering dispute has been resolved at the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California: who gets to pay the bill it left behind.

About 10 months after the plant shut down, a tentative settlement Thursday would free utility customers from having to shoulder the remaining cost of faulty equipment that led to the plant's demise.

Overall, consumer advocates said customers at two utilities would see an estimated $1.4 billion in savings, including $600 million in refunds, under the deal.

"The proposed settlement represents a huge win for consumers," said Matthew Freedman, an attorney with the Utility Reform Network, a consumer group involved in the talks. "It will hold utility shareholders accountable for the fiasco ... and expedite refunds to customers."

The plant's operator, Southern California Edison, and minority owner, San Diego Gas & Electric Co., have been negotiating with consumer advocates and state officials over how to divide a long list of costs from the twin-domed plant, from replacement power purchased after the plant shut down to money invested in reactor equipment.

If approved by state utility regulators, the agreement could end a long-running dispute over who has to pay for the defunct seaside plant, which was closed permanently in June after a costly fight over whether it was safe to restart.

The California Public Utilities Commission, which has been overseeing a broad investigation into the costs, must approve the agreement.

Commissioner Mike Florio said in a statement that it is "encouraging that the parties have come to a proposed resolution. If approved, it would save us another two years of litigation and offer ratepayers a more expeditious relief."

Under a key piece of the settlement, customers of the two utilities will not have to cover the bulk of the long-term cost for defective steam generators that were at the heart of the plant's problems, a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.

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