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Utilities commission omission

Judge rules regulator can't opt out of producing documents

Former Edison exec Michael Peevey
Former Edison exec Michael Peevey

San Francisco Superior Court judge Ernest Goldsmith today (January 25) ruled that laws do not shield the California Public Utilities Commission from turning over critical documents related to the San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown.

San Diego attorneys Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson have been fighting to get the regulator to turn over such documents as emails between Governor Brown's staff and commission officials.

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The commission voted for ratepayers paying 70 percent of a near-$5 billion tab related to the San Onofre decommissioning. The utilities commission and Southern California Edison, majority owner of the closed plant, refused to turn over some of the documents, claiming that only the appellate court — not superior court — could force the surrendering of the documents.

Judge Goldsmith said it was "not realistic" that the legislature intended to "insulate [utilities commission] officials accused of corruption from public scrutiny." Goldsmith also said that "withholding records of allegedly secret ex parte deals between the [commission] and utility executives of $3.3 billion of utility losses to ratepayers is not a regulatory function."

The matter now goes back to another superior-court judge who will make a ruling on which documents have to be turned over. Aguirre and Severson are seeking emails that are said to be protected because they are from or to the governor. Others are said to be shielded because of the "deliberative process privilege," which the San Diego lawyers challenged.

Some of the documents under discussion have already been made public, such as the clandestine Warsaw, Poland, meeting on March 26, 2013, between Michael Peevey, then president of the commission, and an executive of Southern California Edison. These were unearthed by criminal investigators, but there could be more on the process that led to the commission decision to nail ratepayers.

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Former Edison exec Michael Peevey
Former Edison exec Michael Peevey

San Francisco Superior Court judge Ernest Goldsmith today (January 25) ruled that laws do not shield the California Public Utilities Commission from turning over critical documents related to the San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown.

San Diego attorneys Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson have been fighting to get the regulator to turn over such documents as emails between Governor Brown's staff and commission officials.

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The commission voted for ratepayers paying 70 percent of a near-$5 billion tab related to the San Onofre decommissioning. The utilities commission and Southern California Edison, majority owner of the closed plant, refused to turn over some of the documents, claiming that only the appellate court — not superior court — could force the surrendering of the documents.

Judge Goldsmith said it was "not realistic" that the legislature intended to "insulate [utilities commission] officials accused of corruption from public scrutiny." Goldsmith also said that "withholding records of allegedly secret ex parte deals between the [commission] and utility executives of $3.3 billion of utility losses to ratepayers is not a regulatory function."

The matter now goes back to another superior-court judge who will make a ruling on which documents have to be turned over. Aguirre and Severson are seeking emails that are said to be protected because they are from or to the governor. Others are said to be shielded because of the "deliberative process privilege," which the San Diego lawyers challenged.

Some of the documents under discussion have already been made public, such as the clandestine Warsaw, Poland, meeting on March 26, 2013, between Michael Peevey, then president of the commission, and an executive of Southern California Edison. These were unearthed by criminal investigators, but there could be more on the process that led to the commission decision to nail ratepayers.

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