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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.

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.

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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Comments
19

A step in the right direction.

Jan. 25, 2016

eastlaker: Definitely. The judge who makes the final decision on what emails are released is the key. Also, there is a rumor that Edison will appeal this decision. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 26, 2016

Mike Murphy:Yes, it is important to know if the CPUC and/or Edison destroyed documents. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 26, 2016

The FBI lab may be required to retrieve the deleted documents. Then put the CPUC computer staff on the stand and prosecute them for perjury after they have testified to protect themselves from being fired. That is, unless someone on staff blows the whistle under pressure. Covering up one crime leads to a cascade of additional possible charges--IF the authorities will make them. Depends on how wide the net of collusion is.

Jan. 26, 2016

Flapper: Often, crooks get prosecuted for the coverup, but not for the original crime. It would be helpful, and would serve justice, if whistleblowers would come forward at both the CPUC and Edison. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 26, 2016

We can only hope that this is just another small chunk of the impregnable armor that the CPUC built around its corruption. The real question is if the FBI and Atty General are really investigating the CPUC and the double dealing that went on in regard to San Bruno and SONGS.

The CPUC could bring all this to a halt if it ruled that its previous ruling(s) were tainted and thus improper, and headed back to the drawing board to reconsider the whole picture. Could that happen? Probably not, given the current board, but if the cops were getting close enough, they might just alter course.

Jan. 26, 2016

Visduh: The three investor-owned utilities in the state -- Sempra, PG&E, and Edison International -- charge just about the highest rates in the nation. Rates at municipal utilities are about half those of San Diego Gas & Electric, a Sempra subsidiary.

The CPUC as presently constituted will never admit that it is corrupt, because it is criminally corrupt. But if whistleblowers stepped forward, anything is possible. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 26, 2016

This is why southern California has some of the highest priced energy in the USA., despite having some of, if not the best, weather in the USA. http://tinyurl.com/jyr6fmr

SanOnofreGate ** becomes ever larger!

** The new hashtag that will allow you to keep up to date on the ongoing investigation into the multi-billion $ SCE-CPUC ripoff.

Jan. 26, 2016

CaptD: Absolutely. Rates at SDG&E, Edison, and PG&E are among the highest in the nation, often double the rates of municipal utilities. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 26, 2016

Visduh — Remember the CA AG is seeking Sen. Boxers seat, so I don't think that she will be motivated to make waves before she is elected, since the investigation could easily implicate both Sen. Boxer and Gov. Brown for knowingly looking the other way in #SanOnofreGate.

Plus, If it gets that far, I bet Gov. Brown will pardon his good friend Peevey and any others (for the good of the State”).

Jan. 26, 2016

CaptD: Brown vetoed intelligent CPUC reforms passed by the legislature. I think he will end the investigation of Peevey and Edison officials unilaterally. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 26, 2016

I suspect that the conspirators held their information and activities pretty closely, precisely to minimize whistle-blowers. At this scale, threats to harm the loved ones of potential whistle-blowers are often enough to keep them quiet. At this scale, such methods are common.

Jan. 26, 2016

Flapper: Yes, but much information has already been released through the efforts of Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson. Best, DFon Bauder

Jan. 26, 2016

I applaud their efforts, but I'd be willing to bet there's lots more to it.

Jan. 26, 2016

Flapper: Of course there is lots more. That's why Aguirre and Severson are in court now, insisting that documents that have been withheld be released. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 27, 2016

CaptD: I have been skeptical that the AG's office will do anything because of Kamala Harris's political ambitions, but have been pleasantly surprised in some instances with what it has come up with. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 26, 2016

The judge will examine emails in camera. Aguirre and Severson also want emails that went to the Governor's office - at least from what I remember reading in the UT.

Jan. 26, 2016

Diogenes: Oh yes. Emails to and from the governor and/or his staff are being vigorously sought. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 27, 2016

Laurel Kaskurs: A lot of people believe the corruption goes right back to Brown's office. Best, Don Bauder

Jan. 27, 2016

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