A new batch of emails released Friday, May 22, in the California Public Utilities Commission probe show snug and questionable relationships between an administrative law judge and Southern California Edison.
The role of Michael Peevey, then the president of the commission and now retired, is under criminal investigation by the state and federal governments regarding similar coziness.
It is already clear that top commission officials were scheming to make sure that ratepayers would be forced to pay the bulk of $5 billion costs for the decommissioning of the now-shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant — even though those ratepayers would get no power in return and had nothing to do with the errors that led to the closing of the plant.
Newly released emails reveal that the administrative law judge on the case, Melanie Darling, was alarmingly close to Edison — indeed, apparently making decisions for the utility. That is not the role of an administrative law judge.
On December 4, 2012, Southern California Edison's Russell Worden, who was handling the San Onofre strategic review, had a 15-minute phone conversation with Darling. The next day, Worden emailed Darling, asking if she wanted Edison to notify all its customers about an upcoming public participation hearing about San Onofre, or did she want only customers near the nuclear plant invited. He also said that "upon reflection" he thought the company should let the public know of his telephonic meeting with her.
Worden wrote that the two had discussed "expectations about recovery of damages" and "root cause analyses" of the debacle. These subjects go to the heart of the matter. But, Worden said, "I will follow your direction on this."
Darling wrote back, "I don't recall going beyond procedural matters, including broad concept of phases of testimony." She asked him if his concern related to "my query about the arbitration?"
Worden wrote back and said he would like to file the notice of the meeting but limit it to a few issues. The filing was made December 7. Edison claimed the conversation was about "procedural issues," including Edison's relationship with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the designer and fabricator of steam generators at the plant; the timing of a filing related to capital costs, and access to documents on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website.
The filing did not discuss Edison's expectations "about recovery of damages" or "root cause analyses," which Darling and Worden had discussed in the conversation on December 4. Nor did it reveal Darling's questions about arbitration.
At hearings, Darling would not let San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre probe the key topic: whether the CPUC's decision to stick San Onofre expenses on ratepayers had been pre-determined in secret meetings between the company and the commission.
It is now abundantly clear that the decision was shaped in multiple secret meetings, including one that Peevey had with an Edison executive in Warsaw, Poland. Did Darling know about those secret meetings?