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U.S. Senate Candidate Sanchez Criticizes Opponent Harris On San Onofre Probe

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story attributed a comment about Native Americans to Harris, and not Sanchez. KPBS regrets the error.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez said Attorney General Kamala Harris has “failed” in her inquiry of the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, and that’s why a federal investigation is needed.

U.S. Senate candidate Loretta Sanchez wants federal prosecutors to investigate the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Sanchez said she plans to speak to U.S. Justice Department officials and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy of San Diego to request a federal probe.

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There was no immediate comment from Duffy’s office.

Sanchez said her opponent Attorney General Kamala Harris has “failed” in her own inquiry, and that’s why a federal investigation is needed.

Harris is conducting a criminal investigation into how customers got left with a $3.3 billion bill for San Onofre’s closure after a radioactive leak in 2012.

The key terms of the deal — known as the San Onofre settlement — were reached in a secret meeting in Poland in March 2013 between a Southern California Edison executive and former California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey.

Harris had been lauded for discovering evidence of the clandestine session during a search of Peevey’s home in early 2015.

But months later, Harris obtained another warrant to search the offices of the Public Utilities Commission and San Onofre majority owner Edison. Instead of sending her investigators to do the search, Harris inexplicably gave the warrant to both entities, asking them to voluntarily hand over all documents and communications related to the settlement.

Consumer advocates have also criticized Harris, saying she let the statute of limitations run out on a key charge that could have emerged from her investigation.

Harris's investigative team stated in court papers that when there is a probe, as there was at the time by the Public Utilities Commission, it is prohibited to have ex parte communications, such as the secret Poland meeting. Anyone who knowingly engages in private contacts could be guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, which is a felony.

However, the statute of limitations for conspiracy to obstruct justice is three years after the offense. The legal clock ran out in March.

Harris' office contends the statute of limitations has not passed and that she can still pursue charges in the case if they are “appropriate and justified.”

Sanchez accused Harris of trying to shield the PUC.

“The attorney general has made it clear that she would rather protect the PUC and political cronies than the people of California,” Sanchez said.

Harris’ campaign spokesman, Nathan Click, released a statement saying Sanchez was “embarking on a deeply dishonest and negative campaign.”

He accused Sanchez of falsely attacking and politicizing the ongoing criminal investigation.

“It’s what Californians have come to expect from Sanchez, who has been repeatedly criticized for her divisive attacks against Muslims, Native Americans and even President Obama,” Click wrote.

The spokesman was referring to a series of gaffes by Sanchez in the last year.

During an interview in July, Sanchez said she believed that Obama’s endorsement of Harris’s senate bid was because they were both black.

Photo credit: Associated Press

Surfers walk along a beach nearby the San Onofre nuclear power plant, July 19, 2012.

Sanchez also imitated a Native American war cry in 2015 while chatting at a gathering of Indian Americans about getting mixed up on the difference between an Indian American and an American Indian.

And following the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Sanchez said that 5 percent to 20 percent of Muslims are in favor of a caliphate.

Harris’ campaign spokesman did not address Sanchez’s criticism of the attorney general’s position on what to do with the spent nuclear fuel from San Onofre.

Sanchez has condemned Harris for defending the California Coastal Commission’s decision to allow nuclear waste from San Onofre to be buried in steel casks on the beach.

“Ms. Harris is failing to protect the people of California and our coastal environment by defending the burial of nuclear waste on the beach,” Sanchez said.


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Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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