PUC Continues To Flout Legislator's Demand For Documents On San Onofre Pact

Monday, September 7, 2015
By Amita Sharma

Details about how state regulators approved a deal to close San Onofre nuclear power plant and stick customers with most of the multi-billion dollar bill are likely to remain secret.

Despite repeated demands for documents over the last six months, regulators have steadfastly refused to turn them over to a state lawmaker.

In March, Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, asked California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker to hand over records connected to the San Onofre settlement.

The controversial $4.7 billion deal requires consumers to pay 70 percent of the costs associated with the nuclear plant’s shutdown following a 2012 radiation leak without a full investigation by state regulators into who was at fault. KPBS found the full cost to consumers for the shutdown is $10.4 billion spread out over the next decade or two.

The framework for the agreement was hatched during a secret meeting in Poland between a Southern California Edison executive and former PUC President Michael Peevey, according to records seized from the latter’s home during a search. The San Onofre pact is part of a state criminal investigation into dealings between state regulators and utility executives.

In a letter Rendon sent in March to PUC President Picker, he wrote, “I believe it is your duty as president of the commission to shine a bright light on the process and fully investigate all aspects of the process, particularly after recent revelations that suggest the outline of the settlement may have been agreed to in principle in a secret meeting between Southern California Edison and then President Michael Peevey several months before the public proceeding actually commenced.”

But Picker, who has pledged transparency under his leadership, has only released information on why he approved the San Onofre settlement.

In a written response to Rendon last month, Picker said he was barred from allowing access to additional documents.

“I am sorry that I continue to disappoint you,” Picker wrote. “It is inappropriate for me to interfere in an ongoing investigation, and it is wrong for me to arrogate the authorities of the assigned Commissioner and the Presiding Judge.”

Rendon’s spokesman Kevin Liao is pessimistic about the documents ever being released.

“At this point, we don’t expect full compliance,” Liao said. “Even the attorney general hasn’t been able to obtain compliance documents from the PUC.”

The California attorney general’s office filed court papers last month saying the PUC has not produced records that respond to a search warrant.

Liao said Assemblyman Rendon hopes a proposed bill will prevent future standoffs with the PUC over document releases. The bill would allow disputes with the PUC over the California Public Records Act to be resolved in state court.