SAN CLEMENTE (CBSLA/AP) — A California Public Utilities Commission judge this week endorsed a proposed settlement under which the owners of the failed San Onofre nuclear plant agreed to slice hundreds of millions of dollars from the cost to ratepayers of the 2012 breakdown.
If the full commission also approves the decision, customers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric will see their share of the $4.7 billion in closure costs shaved by $775 million through 2022. That’s savings of about $68 per residential customer over four years.
The ruling from Judge Darcie Houck, released late Monday, makes it more likely customers will save money from the previous arrangement.
San Onofre, located between San Diego and Los Angeles, was shut down in January 2012 after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of extensive damage to hundreds of tubes inside the virtually new generators.
The settlement was first announced in January. It revises an agreement approved in 2014 by state regulators on the closure of the San Onofre nuclear plant.
San Diego law firm Aguirre & Severson filed a lawsuit on behalf of the utility’s customers after that 2014 agreement. Severson and her law partner, former San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre, lost their case before a U.S. district judge in 2015. But more than a year later the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case.
Severson praised Tuesday’s ruling, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“It is great news for ratepayers,” she said. “By doing this, the ratepayers will avoid paying the last five years of what they were charged under the original settlement agreement.”
The decision by federal appeals judges prompted attorneys for Edison and SDG&E to open settlement negotiations, and early this year all parties to the case announced the agreement to stop charging utility customers for many of the closure costs after December 2017.
In August 2017, Edison agreed to make a good faith effort to relocate 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste away from San Onofre, bringing an end to a nearly two-year legal battle between the utility provider and environmental groups.
According to the parameters of its deal with environmental groups, Edison will spend up to $4 million on developing a plan to move the spent fuel to an offsite facility.
The Department of Energy has no long-term storage site for radioactive fuel from commercial nuclear plants, forcing companies like Edison to find and operate their storage facilities.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)