BGE gets 4-month delay in Calvert Cliffs dispute

May 17, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer

A Maryland Public Service Commission hearing examiner yesterday gave the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. until Dec. 15 to rebut arguments that it should pay from $194 million to $450 million for past shutdowns at its Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.

The decision extends by four months a 4-year-old legal battle, which will not be completed until 1996 at the earliest. The case will decide whether BGE or its ratepayers will shoulder the half-billion-dollar cost for a series of shutdowns at its Southern Maryland nuclear power plant from May 1989 to May 1991.

BGE has argued that all the cost for replacement power, which it calculates at $458 million, should be paid by ratepayers because the problems that led to the shutdowns could not have been anticipated or prevented.

But a study commissioned by the PSC staff said BGE could have prevented many of the problems and should pay $194 million of the expense. The Office of the People's Counsel, the state agency that represents ratepayers, goes further in another study, saying BGE should pay $450 million.

To respond to those reports, both filed with the PSC on March 15, BGE had asked that it be given until March 15, 1995, to prepare its rebuttal -- seven more months than the tentative schedule called for.

In his decision, hearing examiner O. Ray Bourland III said some of the material sought by the company was already in the studies and that supporting documentation appeared "fairly full and complete."

BGE attorney Roger D. Redden said the extra time was needed to pursue its extensive information requests from the PSC staff and the People's Counsel, whose responses had been incomplete in some cases.

The March 15 deadline "is not unreasonable," he said. "In fact, it might be tight."

David M. Perlman, another BGE attorney, also said the company's probe includes complicated technical issues. "It's going to take us time and effort to pursue it," he said.

But the PSC staff and the People's Counsel said the BGE requests so far were primarily about the backgrounds of the people who conducted the studies.

"These issues are not that important to the case," said Matthew W. Nayden, a private attorney retained by the People's Counsel.

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