A Los Angeles federal judge refused Friday to block Southern California
Edison's $3.3-billion settlement with the California Public Utilities
Commission, a deal that both sides say will help restore the utility to
U.S. District Judge Ronald S. W. Lew's action was largely procedural,
paving the way for the Utility Reform Network to seek a stay from the
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The consumer group, which has condemned the settlement as a bad deal that
is unfair to the utility's customers, will file its request with the
appellate court sometime next week, said attorney Michael Strumwasser.
On Oct. 5, Lew approved the settlement, which allows Edison to use ratepayer
and shareholder funds to repay $3.3 billion in debts owed to electric
The deal, structured as a settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by Edison
against the PUC, would keep customer rates at their current levels for
at least two years. Edison would not pay dividends to shareholders for
the same period.
The consumer group contends that the settlement violates terms of the 1996
law deregulating the sale of electricity in California.
The group appealed Lew's approval of the settlement to the 9th Circuit,
which is expected to hear the case early next year.
Stephen E. Pickett, Edison's vice president and general counsel, said
of the judge's latest ruling: "We're pleased. It's an
important step in the process."