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State | THE STATE / ENERGY

Utilities Expect Big Write-Off if Measure Wins

July 14, 1998|Bloomberg News

PG&E Corp. and Edison International, two of California's largest electric utilities, said they together will have to write off as much as $4.9 billion in nuclear-plant and other debt if an initiative to repeal California's electricity-deregulation law passes in November. Under the law that took effect March 31, utilities were permitted to refinance debt on nuclear plants with bonds backed by fees from electricity consumers statewide. Consumer activists want that portion of the law repealed and have successfully qualified an initiative for the November ballot. Even though the ballot measure faces an uphill battle, industry analysts are concerned that there was enough support for it to qualify for the ballot. San Francisco-based PG&E, the state's largest utility, said it would have to write off as much as $3 billion if the initiative passes. Rosemead-based Edison said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it would have to write off as much as $1.9 billion. It is the parent of Southern California Edison. Sempra Energy, parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric Co., said it expects to file a financial-impact statement with the SEC on the initiative later this week. Consumer groups argue that the deregulation law gave the bulk of savings to large businesses and makes consumers, rather than shareholders, pay for bad decisions that utilities made about building nuclear plants.

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