Advocate: Customers should stop paying San Onofre costs immediately

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Even though Southern California Edison (SCE) decided to shut down the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) earlier this month, customers are still footing the bill for the plant. 

Since last year, the California Public Utilities Commission has been investigating whether ratepayers should be let off the hook for San Onofre.

The investigation has been painstakingly slow. It’s not expected to be complete for several more years.

But the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, the independent consumer advocate within the Public Utilities Commission, wants to speed up the process.

It filed a motion urging the commission to stop letting Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric charge customers for San Onofre costs, except those related to essential safety and security.

“Charging ratepayers expenses for a non-operational plant is so clearly unreasonable that failure to remove  SONGS costs from rates immediately would be a violation of Section 451," the motion argues. Section 451 mandates all utility charges are just and reasonable. 

The motion also accuses Edison of double dipping, taking a write-down on a plant it's still earning money on.

"Absent removal of the SONGS revenue requirement from customer rates, SCE will be taking a pretax impairment charge for a facility that has ceased power operation but continues to generate a full rate of return on its investment through its customer rates," the motion says.

In an e-mail, Edison spokeswoman Maureen Brown called the Division's action premature and said its claims are unfounded.

"SCE acted reasonably and looks forward to demonstrating this fact in the evidentiary hearings," said Brown " In the meantime, the CPUC has set rates beginning in January 2012 as 'subject to refund,' so no party is disadvantaged by permitting the commission's reviews to run their course." 

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