“Dark Clouds” Hang Over $4.7B San Onofre Closure Settlement

The original, $4.7 billion deal for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) cleanup may have been manipulated by insiders, according to an eye-opening letter sent to the head California Public Utilities Commission.

Anthony Rendon, chair of the Assembly Committee on Utilities, sent the letter to the commission’s new President Michael Picker, asking for an investigation into the “dark clouds of the SONGS settlement,” which left ratepayers on the hook for $3.3 billion for the plant’s closure.

The letter, obtained by NBC 7 Thursday, is responding to Picker’s appearance before the committee last Monday.

“I believe it is imperative to investigate and scrutinize the entire settlement process in order to ensure that the settlement process was legitimate and uncorrupted,” Rendon wrote in the letter.

Rendon suggested Picker should order Southern California Edison – the utility in charge of SONGS -- to give the CPUC all internal and external emails that relate to the nuclear plant problems, including the new steam generators’ failures which eventually led to the plant’s closing.

The chairman also said the commission should get all correspondence dealing with how the massive cleanup would be paid for and who would foot the bill. Once obtained, Rendon said Picker should turn the emails over to the Assembly committee at once.

Additionally, Rendon alleges the previous president of the CPUC, Michael Peevy, may have met secretly with power insiders from Southern California Edison in advance of any public hearings.

CPUC critics say the first secret meeting took place in a Warsaw hotel in Poland and 35 closed-door meetings followed. Picker told the committee on Monday that no secrecy went into the settlement. "It looked to me like it was built out of discussion and public testimony, and that’s all I can really offer you,” he said.

Still, Rendon said anything short of total transparency would be viewed by the public and the committee as a failure by the CPUC to do their job properly.

“It is my solemn belief that your efforts to reform the commission and restore the public’s trust cannot be completed until the dark clouds of the SONGS settlement and the specter of process manipulation by your predecessor are fully and completely removed,” Rendon wrote.

The letter closes with a warning, telling Picker that the committee may call him back for another public hearing to give additional testimony.

Attorney Michael Aguirre told NBC 7 the letter confirms what he has been saying for months --that the original decision by the commission should be tossed out and new hearings be held to determine exactly who should pay for the cleanup.

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