Judge Melanie Darling, from the video

Is the Public Utilities Commission Complicit in a Cover-up?

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1The attached videos of the May 14 Settlement Evidentiary hearing, for the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, in California, are shocking. The shortest, posted at the very bottom of the page, is a collection of clips giving some keys points. They leave the impression that Judge Melanie Darling may be concealing, rather than examining, evidence. A different picture emerges from the longer video, posted almost immediately below. There was an ongoing struggle for control of the proceedings. Was the rate payer’s representative out of order? Or  is the Public Utilities Commission Complicit in a cover-up?

“The representation by the Commission that there was going to be an investigation into the reasonableness of Southern California Edison’s deployment of the defective steam generators was a promise of an investigation with the intent not to perform it,” said Mike Aguire, representing SanDiego ratepayers. “It is our contention that you, Ms Darling, Judge Darling, entered a ruling that put the investigation off into the remote future in order to avoid any such investigation.”

These proceedings revolved around a proposed settlement offer, in which the utility companies (Southern California Edison and minority partner SanDiego Gas & Electric) would be paid $3.3 million in connection to the decommissioning of San Onofre. Attorney Mike Aguirre, speaking on behalf of ratepayers, believes this is inappropriate when there has not been a full investigation into the events that led to the nuclear facilities failure.

Ron Litzinger, CEO of Southern California Edison (SCE), turned out to be one of his star witnesses!

At several points during cross examination,Litzinger admitted to not submitting documents to the Commission.

His explanation was, “these general recitals were just provided as general background and that was what we were attempting to accomplish.”

Aguirre asked if the Commission had been given anything “to establish the sufficiency of the settling parties investigation into the extent to which SCE was responsible for the RSG design errors?”

Litzinger responded, “There is not.”

Asked if the Commission had been given evidence that showed SCE had acted prudently, Litzinger said, “It is not in the record”

Attorney Mike Aguirre questioning SCE CEO
Attorney Mike Aguirre questioning Southern California Edison CEO Ron Litzinger

One of the most damming parts of Litzinger’s testimony were his assertions that there “exhaustive investigations” designed to build their case against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. This sounds like blame shifting and begs the question of whether SCE sought the actual cause of the problem.

Unfortunately Aguire’s questions pertained to the record available to the Commission. This was, by Litziner’s admission, incomplete.

Aguire asked if these included any proof that SCE’s investigation included “whether SCE officials had any responsibility for design errors.”

Litzinger said, “I … same answer, I cannot.”

Judge Darling intervened when Aguirre asked about the value of Litzinger’s stock.

This prompted the feisty attorney to explain, “It is relevant to his testimony, He’s under oath. His credibility is at issue. Whether he’s making money off this settlement is an issue that you have to take into consideration. The step – the moment he put his had up and swore, his credibility was at issue. This is a proper financial motivation cross-examination question that any court would allow.”

Litzinger inadvertently set the CPUC up by stating he had communications with the commissioners on multiple maters “all the time.”

Aguirre suggested that there was more to the proposed March 27 settlement offer than met the eye.

“It’s our position that Mr Peevey (of the CPUC)  helped to orchestrate this settlement through Mr Freedman (also CPUC) and others, and it wasn’t a settlement negotiation. It was a meeting to figure out how not to have the reasonableness investigation,”he said.

“The rulings that you (Judge Darling) made prohibiting any kind of discovery into the relevant issues, when the dis .. when the settlement was announced, the coordinate press releases falsely stated, from Mr Florio and Mr Peevey, that the parties has settled which was picked up as part of the blitzkrieg in which the ratepayers were misinformed that they were going to get a $1.4 billion refund was a collusion, not a bona fide basis for this settlement. And we have a right to try to develop that record, which you are not permitting us to do.”

It was at this point that Aguirre tried to ask Mr Peevey a question and Judge Darling intervened, saying, “No, you don’t have any questions.”

Aguirre proceeded anyway, “Mr Peevey did you have any discussions with any parties about the settlement process while it was taking place, sir? Will you put that on the record? And the same with Mr Florio. Will you put that on the record?”

Throughout this dialogue, Judge Darling kept repeating “No.”

“Your honor, you wanted the basis for you not to find the settlement to be fair, legal and reasonable is if there was collusion. You are now interfering,” Aguirre said.

Judge Darling, “No.”

To which Aguirre pointed out that as fiduciaries, “You have an obligation to put on the record if you had any knowledge of the settlement negotiations or in any way participated in them while they were underway.”

Mr Peevey gave a partial answer, saying he did not talk to the attorney for the Utility Reform Network during the entire time.

This prompted Aguirre to ask, “What about Southern Cal Edison?”

Peevey, “Sorry, about Edison?”

Aguirre, “Yeah.”

Peevey, “I’m not hear to answer your questions.”

Judge Darling, “Mr Aguirre.”

Peevey, “I’m not hear to answer your Goddamn questions, now shut up! Shut up!”

“It is not a bonafide evidentiary hearing,” Aguirre concluded “And I again request that you allow for a proper review with proper findings.”

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