The California Public Utilities Commission this week laid out an open-ended schedule for finally resolving the settlement over the premature retirement of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) after parties failed to reach an agreement by the August deadline.
The decisions set forth an expedited schedule for hearings and filings to speed what Commissioner Michael Picker and Administrative Law Judge Darcie Houck called a matter “long overdue for resolution.” However, the date of the proposed decision is listed only as “TBD.”
SONGS halted operations permanently in 2013 due to problems with new steam generators, and the commission in 2014 approved a $4.7 billion settlement that would require ratepayers to pay $3.3 billion of the closure costs. However, CPUC reopened the settlement last year when it was found that former commission President Michael Peevey had prior to the agreement conducted ex-parte talks with a then-executive for SONGS majority owner Southern California Edison (SCE).
The parties to the settlement — including SCE, the state Office of Ratepayer Advocates, and nongovernmental groups The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility (A4NR) — have since then tried to agree on a new deal, but failed to come to consensus. Now, Picker and Houck “will set a status conference to address outstanding issues for additional evidentiary hearings to reassess the costs allocated between ratepayers and shareholders in this proceeding,” according to their Oct. 10 order.
A status conference is scheduled for Nov. 7 in Los Angeles, followed by submission of documents, testimony from the parties, hearings, and brief filings through March 29 of next year.
Ron Nichols, president of Southern California Edison, said the utility will actively participate in the expedited process ordered this week. Since plant operations were halted, SCE and SONGS partner San Diego Gas & Electric have returned more than $2 billion to customers, according to a press release from the utility.