SDG&E and Arizona Public Service tried to blame the September 8 blackout on a single worker. Critics reject the explanation.
  • SDG&E and Arizona Public Service tried to blame the September 8 blackout on a single worker. Critics reject the explanation.
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The San Diego law firm of Aguirre and Severson on Friday (July 31) filed a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, charging that it has suppressed evidence about the failure of the San Onofre nuclear plant on September 8, 2011, during the largest blackout in California history.

Mike Aguirre

The commission is supposed to ensure electricity reliability across state lines. Mike Aguirre of the law firm has been trying since March to get emails between the commission and Southern California Edison, majority owner of the now-shuttered nuclear plant. The commission says it can withhold hundreds of documents because of legal exemptions to the firm's Freedom of Information Act requests. Aguirre has gone to court to force release of documents.

Today (August 3) the firm released part of a document that it has in its possession. An Edison official on September 12, 2011, was told to provide blackout-related documents to the commission. Four days later, the executive replied in a letter to the commission, "Certain electronic documents related to the outages, particularly electronic mail, may have been deleted in the ordinary course of business prior to the receipt of your September 12 letter."

Mia Severson

Says Maria Severson of the firm, "Edison destroyed evidence about its complicity within days after the blackout with the full knowledge of [the commission]. Today's evidence shows that [the commission] did nothing to stop them." Severson wonders if the proof of what caused the blackout may ever come out — particularly San Onofre's role.

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Ponzi Aug. 3, 2015 @ 8:03 p.m.

I think the grid was hacked. Ala stuxnet. Or something on a par with infiltrating the grid management system. To blame some lone "golden screwdriver" mistake by a technician, to me, would indicate system-wide vulnerabilities that are more concerning than a hack. But, like banks who don't report fund losses via hacking and embezzlement, the utility might fear that admitting a hack would encourage others to target the utilities. Just something to think about.


Don Bauder Aug. 3, 2015 @ 9:27 p.m.

Ponzi: I have always thought that putting the blame on one poor schmuck showed the vulnerability of the system more than anything else could. Corporations generally, and disingenuously, try to blame somebody down the line for bad mistakes. This time, it backfired. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh Aug. 4, 2015 @ 7:24 a.m.

Over the years there have been several massive, region-wide electrical blackouts, and the story behind each one of them was supposedly told. But the story usually involved a small error by one person that caused a cascade of system failure and shutdowns. Oh, then the utility would claim that it "learned" from the breakdown, and that such things were preventable and that such an incident would "never" happen again. That is, until the next such one. People make mistakes, and these systems have multiple redundancies in them, or so we are told. So, why do we have such blackouts?


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 12:44 p.m.

Visduh: Good points. Blackouts are the inevitable result of incompetent, corrupt utility managements and regulators. Best, Don Bauder


Twister Aug. 3, 2015 @ 10:20 p.m.

And if it's a tree they failed to fall or trim, they blame it on God.


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 7:07 a.m.

Twister: Yes, and these utility executives believe that God is in middle management -- an inferior creature beneath those at the top. Best, Don Bauder


ImJustABill Aug. 3, 2015 @ 10:34 p.m.

If their explanation that a single worker in AZ caused the blackout, to me that is a horrible indictment of Edison and SDG&E. How screwed up must their control processes be that a single worker making a single mistake could possibly cause such a crisis? There aren't any safeguards?


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 7:14 a.m.

ImJustABill: Precisely. Utility management put the blame on a lowly worker. This happens regularly when top management screws up.

And you are right. If one person's error can put down the whole system, that system is very poorly constructed. California ratepayers shell out big bucks for faulty systems, shabby management, and thoroughly corrupt regulation. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 7:18 a.m.

Katherine Cleary: Yes, that was the tale at the time. I understand some people believed it. Now we learn there was a doubt of some kind of top management incompetence. Best, Don Bauder


Twister Aug. 4, 2015 @ 10:02 a.m.

If somebody doesn't find a way to get into the pockets and offshore accounts of the "management" employees, this will go on and on with taxpayers shelling out bigger and bigger bucks for lawyers and court costs.

What kind of idiot would chop off his fingers for the sins of his toes?


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 1:08 p.m.

Twister: My toes don't have enough oomph to commit sins. Best, Don Bauder


Twister Aug. 4, 2015 @ 2:41 p.m.

Well, buddy, you REALLY fell into THAT one!


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 5:15 p.m.

Twister: I didn't fall. You pushed me. Best, Don Bauder


Twister Aug. 4, 2015 @ 6:47 p.m.

Sorry. I'll try to be more careful in future.


CaptD Aug. 4, 2015 @ 3:56 p.m.

This is just more bureaucratic B$ from both the Utility and those that "Regulate" (as in provide cover) them.

How many times does this have to happen before there is a REAL investigation or is SDG&E too big to Nail?

It is clear to me that our system of expensive checks and balances have failed US on many levels, especially in the State capital.


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 5:17 p.m.

CaptD: Sad to say, you are right. The pursuit and love of money has put the checks and balances scale out of kilter. Money prevails. Best, Don Bauder


Founder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 5:38 p.m.

Don - $an Diego will be known as West Jersey as the Big Money that made Kevin into another Christie, all laugh about it costing them "chump change". Next they will subdivide California into tasty morsels that can be had for a song, all sold to the highest bidder!


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 7:31 p.m.

Founder: Some want to sell the state parks and close those that don't sell. What could be worse? Best, Don Bauder


Twister Aug. 4, 2015 @ 6:53 p.m.

I must confess that I was gullible enough to fall for the "careless or incompetent employee" dodge too. This should be a "heads up" for me at least, to believe nothing I read on the Internet, read in the papers, or hear, and to question what I actually see with mine own eyes.

Everything must be scrutinized with the utmost skepticism.

Best, Twister


Don Bauder Aug. 4, 2015 @ 7:33 p.m.

Twister: This is self-deprecation in the extreme. You say you will believe nothing you read on the Internet. Yet you are one of our main (and most intelligent) posters here. Are you calling yourself a liar? Best, Don Bauder


Twister Aug. 4, 2015 @ 9:03 p.m.

Evidence is evidence, and can't honestly be evaded.

Oh yeah, I lie all the time. Mostly to girls, though. I figured you had sense enough to know, based on the evidence, that I make a singular exception in your case.

I got reminded that as good as I thought I was, I wasn't good enough in this case. I'll never be good enough, and certainly not as good as some contributors who are absolutely perfeckt. "I've only been wrong once, and that was one time when I thought I was wrong." The truth is that I'm baaaad!

As to intelligence, my answer to most questions has to be "I don't know." When it comes to belief, I find it impossible to believe and think at the same time. As I have said before, all my beliefs are provisional. So see to it that you never screw up.

Best, Twister

"You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts." (Moynihan, Baruch, or Schelsinger, depending upon whether you're Irish, Jewish, or German, I reckon. Plagiarism is rife, as is independent invention.)


Don Bauder Aug. 5, 2015 @ 7 a.m.

Twister: In re your distaff relationships: you lie to be able to lie. Best, Don Bauder


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