Michael Aguirre and Jerry Brown
The California Court of Appeal in San Francisco today (June 19) ordered the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to turn over communications between it and the governor’s office as the the agency came up with a plan to shift huge costs of decomissioning the now-shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant to customers, not utilities shareholders. (The plant is about 80 percent owned by Southern California Edison and 20 percent by San Diego Gas & Electric.)
In a long-running legal battle, San Diego attorneys Mike Aguirre and his partner Maria Severson have demanded copies of the communications between the agency and. the governor’s office on this topic. The two lawyers appealed a decision by the trial court. The appellate panel found yesterday, “the CPUC shall produce every document, with any attachment(s) over which it asserted the deliberative process privilege…with the redacted portion restored.” The CPUC did not demonstrate “a clear overbalance” on the side of confidentiality, said the appellate panel.
However, the court said that the CPUC “may continue to withhold the 16 records over which it asserted the attorney-client privilege as [Aguirre] has not timely or convincingly disputed [CPUC’s claim] that he waived his request for these 16 documents.”
Background: the former head of the CPUC, Mike Peevey, came up with the idea to soak the ratepayers, and passed it to Edison. This was of dubious legality. Peevey is a longtime friend of Gov. Jerry Brown; Aguirre and Severson are convinced that the governor may have been calling some of the critical shots in the arrangement. The CPUC adamantly refused to turn over documents related to its communications with Brown. Now it will have to turn over some of them.