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Customers of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison should have their utility bills cut, says California Public Utilities Commission’s independent Division of Ratepayer Advocates director, Joseph P. Como.

In a letter sent to the agency’s commissioners Monday and first reported by the North County Times, Como argues that, due to suspended operations at San Onofre Nuclear Generating stations, ratepayers should not have to pay the $650 million annually that they’re being billed for maintenance at the plant.

The plant’s Unit 2 reactor was shut down on January 9 for routine refueling when a radioactive leak at a steam generator forced the emergency shutdown of Unit 3on January 31. Under state law, if the plant is out of commission for nine months, regulators can suspend maintenance payments and order that customers stop being charged. Neither reactor, however, is expected to be back online before this time threshold is reached.

But Como is asking for the rate reduction to take place immediately, “instead of waiting several more months and allowing hundreds of millions of dollars in needless costs to be borne by customers,” saying that the law in question “is not intended to be a free pass for utilities to earn a return on non-functioning hardware for nine months.”

The utilities, however, seem to disagree.

The Times reports that plant operator Edison did not respond to a request for comment, and that a spokesperson for partial owner SDG&E said that the Division “appears to be jumping the gun with its request.”

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