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SoCal Edison Disputes Ex Parte Violations Cited by CPUC Judge

Edison International's Southern California Edison Co. (SCE) on Friday disputed a state regulatory judge's ruling on 10 alleged ex parte violations by the utility, contending that only one of the violations was a reportable communication under current state regulatory rules. No large penalty or sanction should he imposed, SCE argued.

Earlier this month, a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled that the violations occurred between March 26, 2013 and June 17, 2014, and each offense could lead to penalties of up to $50,000/day (see Daily GPIAug. 6). The five-member CPUC also could impose additional sanctions, not necessarily monetary, a San Francisco-based CPUC spokesperson said.

In a formal response to the judge's ruling filed Thursday, SCE said that except for a March 26, 2013 meeting at an international energy conference in Warsaw, Poland, "SCE did not engage in any communications [with CPUC decision makers] that were reportable under CPUC rules. SCE did not engage in contempt, did not violate [Rule 1.1], and violation was not continuing, and a large penalty is not warranted."

ALJ Melanie Darling had ordered SCE to show cause by Thursday as to why it should not be sanctioned for the 10 unreported communications with the CPUC.

Darling's ruling bans all parties and interested parties from making any individual ex parte communications regarding the subject matter of the ruling. All parties are permitted to submit statements recommending action the CPUC could take.

SCE said that nine of the cited communications did not need to be reported and that none of them were found to have been prohibited. Even regarding the Warsaw meeting, which it concedes should have been reported, SCE contends that "there is no evidence this meeting affected the negotiations on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) settlement" before the CPUC at the time.

Claiming his utility adheres to "the highest standards" in ethics and integrity, SCE President Pedro Pizarro said the March 2013 meeting "was not reportable under the commission's rules, based on the information provided at the time." Subsequently, when more details were obtained in early 2015 from the SCE attorney involved, "SCE learned additional information that indicated a report should be filed."

Nearly a year ago, the CPUC was shaken when another major utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), filed an internal investigation report admitting a number of inappropriate contacts between utility and state regulatory staff over a five-year period (see Daily GPI, Sept. 16, 2014). The fallout cost the jobs of three PG&E executives and a top aide to the state's chief regulator, Michael Peevey, who later retired. Investigations are continuing in that case.

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