California regulator wants changes to settlement over closed Southern California nuclear plant

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SAN CLEMENTE, California — The state regulator overseeing the closure of Southern California's San Onofre nuclear power plant said that a proposed settlement outlining who pays for the work needs to be a better deal for consumers.

The plant's operators fashioned the deal with consumer groups this spring. That proposal "unfairly favors shareholders over consumers," and the California Public Utilities Commission would not consider approving it without substantial revisions, Michael Florio, the commission member handling the multibillion-dollar settlement, said Friday.

The settlement's supporters have estimated it could cost utility customers about $3.3 billion, while saving them $1.4 billion in additional charges.

Southern California Edison permanently closed the seaside plant between San Diego and Los Angeles last year. San Onofre initially was shut down in January 2012 after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of virtually new tubes that carry radioactive water.

Once the plant was shut, the question turned to who should take the financial hit — company shareholders or customers.

Edison and some consumer groups said the proposed settlement was fair, but critics demanded that Edison and its partner, San Diego Gas & Electric Co., bear more of the cost to decommission San Onofre.

Florio ruled Friday that major changes must be made. Among them, he said that a formula for how to divvy up money received from possible insurance settlements needed overhauling. He also wants to change the distribution of any money recovered by Edison from legal action against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Japanese firm that built the failed equipment.

"He's acknowledged that the flaws in the current draft favor the utilities over the ratepayers," said Michael J. Aguirre, a lawyer for San Diego ratepayer activists. "It opens the door to a whole revision."

Edison said it would submit comments on the ruling by Sept. 19.

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