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New Judge In San Onofre Case Has Past Experience With San Diego Utility Issues

Pacific surf rolls in under the nuclear reactors of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County, April 25, 2001.
Associated Press
Pacific surf rolls in under the nuclear reactors of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County, April 25, 2001.

New Judge In San Onofre Case Has Past Experience With San Diego Utility Issues
The judge, who once allowed secret settlement talks and kept out evidence in a case over the 2007 wildfires, will likely hear arguments asking the California Public Utilities Commission to overturn the $4.7 billion San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown settlement.
New Judge In San Onofre Case Has Past Experience With San Diego Utility Issues
GUESTS: Amita Sharma, KPBS Investigative Reporter

I Cavanaugh is Monday, February 8, first in our headlines today a new state regulatory judge has been appointed to oversee the California Public Utilities Commission. Just very is replacing just Melanie Darley, but apparently consumer are not celebrating the apartment. KPBS the reporter Anita is here. Welcome here is good to be here. A settlement agreement reached what was left to do case. Papers have been filed to sell $5 million settlement now, as you know, that settlement requires customers to pay for 70% of the bill which is $3.3 billion. The consumer is asking that settlement be avoided. He says is illegal because the framework of that settlement was reached in Poland three state regulators and Anderson and as an executive. He also argues that look, to be consumer justice sign off on the agreement had withdrawn their support and to Superior Court judges have signed search warrants saying that there is probable cause to believe that a felony was committed in the process of coming up with that agreement. Judge Mary Beth job is to preside over the hearing of that case. Now her ruling will carry some weight, on the final say, it will be public utilities commissioners who have the final thing. Why is judges met with skepticism? She presided over a case or US electric in that case wanted to make customers pay for uninsured wildfire costs arising from the 2000 wildfires. If you recall Marie, life started those fires. The company was also asking for a catastrophic insurance pool that will be funded by public body will be for future uninsured costs. But she initially ruled against, she called the request extraordinary and unprecedented but then, she allowed SDG&E to address a settlement talks with representatives and she did not allow any evidence establishing whether such a fund was even needed. What kind of a message sensor equipment sent to the public Is been a long criticism over the last year. Actually over the past several years but especially over the last year so basically one way of interpreting this is look, it isn't as usual at the, a statement public dropping or is handling the San Bruno gas explosion, back into the tent which killed eight people. The lack of investigation over why the radioactive leak occurred back in 2012, and now the natural gas leak at Alisa Canyon in LA County there are people who were saying that there was plenty of warning, that Julie could occur. It should be noted that there are state investigations ongoing weight San Bruno gas explosion in the league. There's nothing move in the assembly of the Sacramento to perhaps change the very nature of the safety? That arises from that those three events touched major portion of the state of California so there was a report that came out last year and it was done by a law firm, and it basically analyzed PC decisions concluded that major positions involving billions of dollars, tend to be reached behind closed doors and those divisions tend to favor the utilities and they don't favor the public good. So now there is an effort by the resentment might, too busy dismantle PUC, and assign its various responsibilities to different states agencies. Advantages to going over and consumer advocates like Is too soon to tell. There is some people as they look, this is an independent body, it is run correctly, is run according to what is mission is which is deserved the public good. It can be a force for good, and they really don't want to come under another state agency that there are other people who say that this is massive opportunities, if there is a partial effort, to transform our energy system, create public power, or decentralized transmission lines and create more rooftop solar, then yes, it should be dismantled. I've been speaking with the previous investigator reported any thought. Is a lesser

A state regulatory judge — newly assigned to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station case — has a history with San Diego.

Critics say that past doesn’t bode well for consumers.

Maribeth Bushey recently replaced Melanie Darling as the administrative law judge overseeing the San Onofre case at the California Public Utilities Commission.

Bushey will likely hear arguments filed by San Diego consumer attorney Mike Aguirre asking the CPUC to overturn a $4.7 billion settlement that bills customers for 70 percent of San Onofre’s shutdown costs. Aguirre has argued the settlement is illegitimate because its framework was hatched in secret in Poland between regulators and an Edison executive.

Aguirre called Bushey and her predecessor, Darling, two judges with “the same approach.”

Darling’s retirement capped a controversial tenure.

She secretly communicated with a Southern California Edison manager about crucial evidence while she presided over an inquiry into what went wrong at San Onofre following a 2012 radiation leak. Darling later excluded that evidence.

Bushey presided over a case involving San Diego Gas & Electric’s effort to make customers pay for expenses insurance companies wouldn’t cover after the 2007 wildfires. SDG&E lines ignited those fires.

Bushey initially ruled against the utility, calling the request “unprecedented and extraordinary.” But then she allowed the utility to enter secret settlement talks. Aguirre said Bushey also kept out relevant evidence in that case. Ultimately, commissioners rejected SDG&E’s proposal, following customer protests.

The utility is again asking state regulators for permission to charge customers nearly $380 million for costs linked to the 2007 wildfires.

Bushey did not respond to a request for an interview.

The seawall between the spent nuclear fuel storage site and San Onofre State Beach, Oct. 8, 2015.
Katie Schoolov
The seawall between the spent nuclear fuel storage site and San Onofre State Beach, Oct. 8, 2015.

Edison declined comment on Bushey’s appointment to the San Onofre case.

Aguirre said Bushey’s assignment to San Onofre contains a message from beleaguered state regulators.

“They’re literally putting someone in there that is a clear signal that we’re not going to change,” Aguirre said.

There is widespread discontent with the CPUC over its handling of the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, the San Onofre settlement and the Aliso Canyon gas leak. Last week, lawmakers called for the regulatory body to be dismantled.