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Coastal Commission Met Privately With Edison A Year Before Public San Onofre Waste Storage Vote

Surfers walk along a beach nearby the San Onofre nuclear power plant, July 19, 2012.
Associated Press
Surfers walk along a beach nearby the San Onofre nuclear power plant, July 19, 2012.
Coastal Commission Met Privately With Edison A Year Before Public San Onofre Waste Storage Vote
Coastal Commission Met With Edison A Year Before San Onofre Waste Storage Vote GUEST: Amita Sharma, investigative reporter, KPBS

Transparency has not been a hallmark of government decisions considering the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant Southern California Edison was fined for a meeting with the public utilities commission. A deal was worked out to have consumers work out the bulk of the cost of closing down a no free -- San Onofre. Now an investigation has revealed issues on nuclear waste storage. They say they gave unfair damage to the utility on the sensitive issue of storing radioactive material just 100 feet from the ocean off-center and -- San Onofre. Joining me is our investigative reporter.. Good to be here. Wire which is learning about these now Simply filed a lawsuit to release the information. Because of that lawsuit the California coastal commission filed tons of documents. I believe something like 12,000 pages before a judge and they formed the administrative record for this lawsuit. Is the lawsuit have not been filed chances are that we would not have seen these communications. We would have seen a little bit but nothing to this extent. What was discussed? The application to this -- to store the waste on that site. There were meetings between Edison and the coastal commission. They discussed amendments to the project. They discussed the process. There is a basic assumption that a certain amount of public business has to be conducted away from the public. That should be restricted only to information gathering. What is happening here and the way government bodies get around the rules is by having staff meet with private industry. They meet and confer in various ways. The problem with that is if democracy is supposed to be transparent and transparency means that the government decision-making process is supposed to be public than it needs to be understood that that decision-making process begins with the medians. Between industry and staff and the other public bodies What would you call it. They describe a series of emails to the project. He says they come across as formulaic and Rick -- repetitive and the agency tells the staff I appreciate your efforts to keep up. It comes off a little bit as though they are on the same side. It is not legal you have established that but is it rare for some stakeholders to discuss an issue for a year and then only give the public a one week notice that it will be considered. It is not rare especially on the topic of Susannah Frame you and I have discussed on the show several times the private meetings with members that the utilities had in secret with and Edison -- and Edison executive that's why they hammered out a deal that assigned the public 70% of the cost to close down Santa for -- San Onofre. The got assigned most of the cost. There is a term for this phenomenon and it is called regulatory capture. It's what happens when government who is supposed to represent the interest of the publicans of doing business in a way that actually benefit industry and harms the public. The commission had asked Edison what can happen when the sea levels are supposed to rise. What did Edison say in the response. They do not believe that consideration of impacts at that site beyond 2051 is reasonable or necessary. They did go on to add that projections show that by 2100 there will be inundated without a seawall. They have no longer authorized opponents could say that permit could end up being permanent because there is no permanent nuclear waste storage site The job is not to look at public safety or the hazardous-waste their soft. That is a job at the NRC and they have blessed the storage of the waste at that site to be sure what happens at the coast and people say that putting radioactive waste at the coast is probably not the best for the coast You say that there's a lawsuit filed against the coastal commission's decision to allow the beach storage. I understand they are in settlement talks what are the alternatives that they are discussing. They are in settlement talks right now. I know at the start of the talks they expressed. I think one place that has been bandied about is the Palo 30 nuclear power plant in the desert and Arizona. It is 4000 acres compared to Sanofi 36 -- 36,000 acres of people Tommy has massive capacity. The only way we know about these meetings is because of this lawsuit. Thank you.

The California Coastal Commission gave the public a one-week notice in October 2015 that Southern California Edison was proposing to keep waste from the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant on site, just 100 feet from the sea.

But newly filed documents show Commission officials met privately with Edison representatives to discuss that waste storage at least three times in the year leading up to the 2015 decision.

Edison declined to to comment, citing ongoing settlement talks over the possibility of moving the waste to an off-site storage facility.


In a statement, the Coastal Commission said the communications were not unusual and were actually part of the application process. The panel also stated that to allow the general public to attend such informal meetings would make them “unmanageable” in many cases.

RELATED: Special Coverage - Trouble At San Onofre

The meetings do not violate state open meeting rules. A separate ex-parte meeting in 2013 between Edison officials and the former head of the California Public Utilities Commission led to fines for Edison after it was revealed they worked out a deal for consumers to pay the bulk of the closing costs for San Onofre.

RELATED: Customers May Never Know How They Got Stuck with $3.3 Billion Bill For San Onofre Shutdown