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Public Utility Commission of Lies

To read this story as it originally appeared in the San Diego Reader, click here.

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The question of "who is telling the truth?" arises from documents Southern California Edison recently released related to the decision to force ratepayers to pay 70 percent of the nearly $5 billion cost of decommissioning the now-shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant.

For example, there was a hearing on May 14 of last year - the one in which then-California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey shouted to San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre "I'm not here to answer your goddamn question. Now shut up! Shut up!"

Perhaps a more telling Peevey statement came just before his outburst. Asked whether he had had any talks about the San Onofre settlement with Matt Freedman, lawyer for San Francisco's Utility Reform Network, Peevey said emphatically, "I have never talked with Mr. Freedman on this topic during that whole time at all. Period. Mr. Freedman. That's it. Sorry."

The San Onofre deal had been submitted to the utilities commission on April 3, but it had not yet been approved, and Peevey was still trying to get utilities to donate $25 million to the University of California. On April 10, The Utility Reform Network reported officially that it had had a meeting on April 10 with Peevey, who initiated the meeting. The meeting was attended by Freedman.

At that gathering, the Utility Reform Network reported that Peevey had talked about his now-notorious secret meeting in Warsaw, Poland, the year before, in which Peevey had sketched out a guideline for the deal in which ratepayers would have to bear the burden of San Onofre closing.

So, according to the reform organization's records, Peevey was not telling the truth when he claimed at a public meeting that he had not talked with Freedman about the settlement. Peevey has one alibi: he was not under oath when he made the utterance.

Florio Litzinger

However, Ron Litzinger, an Edison top official, was under oath when he testified at that May 10 meeting.

Aguirre asked Litzinger, "Was Southern California Edison having ex parte meetings with the commissioners while the secret negotiations were taking place?' Litzinger said he had not. But Edison documents reveal that on the very morning of the hearing, Litzinger had huddled with Peevey and commissioner Mike Florio.

Aguirre considers that this was an ex parte meeting. "A jury should decide" whether Litzinger was telling the truth, says Aguirre. The San Francisco Chronicle told this weekend how Litzinger revealed in the just-released documents that there had been back-channel meetings between Edison brass, Peevey, and Florio, but they were not reported because the commission had decided that they were one-way meetings at which the commissioners talked and Edison just listened, and therefore they could be kept secret. For example, in a phone call after one meeting, wrote the newspaper, "Florio told Litzinger not to disclose that the two sides had met, saying he was passing along instructions from Peevey's chief of staff, Litzinger said."

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