Stonewalling PUC Hides Jerry Brown's Involvement in Failed San Onofre Deal

Now we know why Gov. Jerry Brown killed a key piece of legislation that would have forced more public disclosure at the state's powerful utilities commission: He was protecting himself. This shouldn't come as a surprise, because as we saw with Mapgate, the governor often tries to carefully avoid transparency. 

After Brown used state workers to create an oil map for his private property in 2014, allegations recently surfaced that he threatened to fire the agency's head after being emailed information, because it would have to be publicly disclosed. Now, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, the PUC is refusing to release more than 60 records tying Brown to communications around a controversial $4.7 billion settlement to close the San Onofre Nuclear power plant. Is the governor influencing that decision?

Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith is slated to hold a hearing on Dec. 9 on whether emails tied to the negotiations around the closure should be made public.The plant was forced to shut in 2012 due to a radiation leak after its owner, Southern California Edison, installed faulty steam generators. 

"There’s something about this that just doesn’t sound right, about stonewalling public information like this,” Goldsmith said at a recent hearing, according to the SDUT. “That’s the optics of where we are: There’s something the PUC doesn’t want out there.”

San Diego attorney Michael Aguirre, who has doggedly uncovered scandal after scandal in connection with the settlement at the PUC and famously, and publicly, confronted now-departed President Michael Peevey, wants the release of internal documents behind the decision that saddled ratepayers with 70 percent of the $4.7 billion cost. Peevey was run out of office as news emerged of cozy relationships between him and utilities and accusations of improper influence in decision-making, which has prompted federal and state investigations. 

The PUC claims that the documents it is withholding are protected from disclosure. Lawyers also claimed the the judge has no jurisdiction because any disputes over commission decisions must be at the appellate or supreme court. Aguirre says that because these are public records, not about commission proceedings, the issue should be handled first by a superior court. 

Shockingly enough, Brown vetoed legislation that would have reformed the PUC, including one bill that would have allowed the public to sue in Superior Court if the commission refused to release any public records, proceedings or not.  

Maybe this is one reason why. In an 2013 email released earlier by Edison on the order of the PUC, Ted Craver, CEO of Edison International, called Brown the day before the company announced plans to decommission San Onofre.

"I indicated that I imagined his office would get media calls tomorrow about this and would be looking for his reaction,” Craver wrote to his board of directors. “I indicated that if he was so moved, it would help if he could indicate we had talked and that he thought the company was acting responsibly and focused on the right things. He indicated a willingness to do that.”

At the time, the governor was at a fundraiser in Rancho Mirage to meet with President Obama. Wonder what other interesting emails are out there. 

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