By Michael Steinberg / Black Rain Press
Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the US nuclear power industry in this country and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working to create a nuclear free world.
Last year Nuclear Shutdown News reported on a scandal involving the San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown, and a secret deal that left its ratepayers holding the bag for a multibillion dollar debt for which the public bears no responsibility. This onerous debt will take consumers and their descendants decades to pay off if the powers that be get their way. But the people are fighting back.
Since this story broke in 2015, it has continued to grow, and now has reached the Sacramento mansion of California Governor Jerry Governor “Moonbeam” Brown.
The debt deal, based on a unanimous ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), dictated that Southern California utility customers would be stuck with 70% of San Onofre’s $4.7 billion shutdown costs, or $3.3 billion.
San Onofre was permanently closed down in the summer of 2013 after majority owner Southern California Edison decided to throw in the towel, after new replacements components in its two nuclear reactors, that were supposed to last for decades, turned into junk in less than two years.
San Diego Gas & Electric is a minority owner of the plant.
Not long after the nuke plant’s shutdown, a secret meeting took place in Warsaw, Poland. The sole attendees were Michael Peevey, then president of the CPUC, and Stephen Pickett, a high level Southern California Edison executive.
Discussions at this clandestine get together allegedly resulted in the ripoff deal that the CPUC subsequently laid on San Onofre customers in November 2014.
After this story began to break last year, agents from California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office, bearing search warrants, raided Edison’s corporate headquarters in SoCal, as well as the CPUC’s in San Francisco.
Among the evidence seized in the raids were emails between Pickett and Peevey supporting allegations of collusion and corruption in cooking up the utility consumer ripoff deal.
Since then attorney Mike Aguirre, former San Diego city attorney, has been representing the utility customers, and has been taking legal action to reverse the course of this scandal, and obtain justice for the aggrieved customers. Specifically, Aguirre and associate Maria Severson have been trying to obtain emails from Jerry Brown’s office that may implicate him in the scandal.
Governor, Judge: Just Good Friends
On February 22, the San Diego Union-Tribune ran an article, “Judge halts PUC email case for review.”
The U-T report told of a decision by state appellate judge Anthony Kline granting the CPUC a stay on a previous ruling by San Francisco Superior Court judge Ernest Goldsmith. Goldsmith had told the CPUC that Aguirre had a right to see Brown’s emails under the California Public Records Act.
The Union Tribune article reported that Judge Kline has a long history with Jerry Brown. They went to Yale Law School together, and Brown has given Kline several lucrative judicial appointments, including his current one as presiding justice over the state’s 1st District Court of Appeals.
Commenting on Kline’s ruling, Mike Aguirre said, “A close personal friend of Jerry Brown gave protection to the governor without ever giving us a hearing,” the U-T reported.
Aguirre’s associate Maria Severson added, “The speed with which this order was made denies us due process. It’s a complete end run.”
In a report in the January 26, 2016 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, “Judge: CPUC has to justify email secrecy,” the newspaper stated,
“The state Public Utilities Commission must justify its refusal to release emails that could reveal a behind-the scenes role of Jerry Brown in a multi-billion dollar deal with two utilities that shut down a southern California nuclear plant, a San Francisco judge ruled Monday.”
In his ruling, Judge Ernest Goldsmith said,
“Withholding records of allegedly ex parte secret deals resulting in shifting $3.3 billion of utility losses cannot possibly be a regulatory function of the PUC.”
Goldsmith further commented,
“The core value of a democracy is the right of citizens to know the actions of public officials.”
In a previous edition of the Chronicle, on November 29, 2015, “Brown’s emails sought in nuke deal”, Goldsmith castigated the CPUC for “stonewalling” and urged the commission to release the emails it had received.
In that article, the Chronicle reported that Mike Aguirre had filed a Public Records Act request with the CPUC and “ultimately learned that the agency had withheld about 130 emails involving Picker (Michael Picker, (current president of the PUC) related to the San Onofre closure.”
One email that was revealed to Aguirre, from June 6, 2013, “the day before Southern California Edison announced the nuke plant’s shutdown was from Edison CEO Ted Carver indicating that Carver had talked to Brown “several times on the phone” that day, the Chronicle reported.
Of the CPUC’s refusal to release the emails, Goldsmith said,
“This is a big deal. This is not a trivial issue to the taxpayers of California. And just like the San Bruno events (a 2011 disaster in northern California caused by the explosion of a Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipeline)were not a trivial deal, and when something is big enough, it just has to come out. And it’s going to come out, and it’s either going to be horribly painful, or you can do the right thing.”
A state law passed last year would have allowed Superior Court judges like Goldsmith to “resolve record disputes involving the Public Records Act,” the Chronicle reported.
But in October 2015, Jerry Brown vetoed that law, the newspaper added.
Sources: San Diego Union Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle