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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | San Francisco | U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Out Of Control CPUC Judge Bans TV From Public Hearing On SONGS Nuke Plant
Two California Public Utility Commission Judges have banned the media and the public from seeing video tape from the hearing on the broken San Onofre nuclear plant run by the Southern California Edison Company SCE. The chair of the California Public Utility Commission is the former CEO of SCE and has taken money non-profit corporations funded by the SCE. Governor Brown who represents the utility industry has kept this corrupt chair in his position of regulating the utilities in California. One of the judges Melanie Darling literally went out of control at the last hearing and tore down a banner after the hearing was adjourned. Maybe she doesn't like seeing herself in action so shutdown the cameras.
CPUC Blocks Video Coverage of San Onofre Hearings
What do they want to hide from the public?
Next week, May 13-17, 2013, The California Public Utilities Commission, located in San Francisco, California, is holding evidentiary hearings in the investigation of Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas and Electric associated with the San Onofre nuclear generating station units 2 and 3 in Southern California. SCE is pushing to restart San Onofre unit 2 without fixing the steam generator problems that made an emergency shut down necessary in January of 2012.
This proceeding represents a microcosm of the issues surrounding the rickety, unsafe conditions of the U.S. fleet of 104 aging reactors. It is of vital interest not only to California residents, but to people across the country and around the world who would be affected by a release of radiation from San Onofre, located in a tsunami zone amid multiple earthquake faults.
Womens Energy Matters (WEM) and Ecological Options Network (EON) believe video taping this important hearing should be allowed and that the entire proceeding should be webcast/video-streamed on the internet by the CPUC to ensure maximum public awareness of the issues involved. This is particularly necessary because this important hearing vitally impacts the 8.5 million plus people in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas who live 450 miles from where the hearings are taking place making their attendance extremely difficult.
At least two webcasts of evidentiary hearings have established webcasting precedent at the CPUC - the General Rate Case and the Sunrise Powerlink proceeding. California's Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act provides for such public videotaping.
EON in collaboration with WEM, who is a party to the proceedings, issued a courtesy notice to Commissioner Florio and the Adjudicatory Law Judges Dudney and Darling regarding the intention to videotape. WEM has filed a motion to that effect.
[See attached PDF ].
As of Fri. May 10, the motion has been denied by Administrative Law Judges Melanie Darling and Kevin Dudney. In their ruling, the ALJs assert that the hearing being open to the public and being transcribed provides sufficient transparency. (However, it is necessary to make special requests for transcriptions which cost $2 per page and take 2 - 4 weeks for delivery. CDs can be ordered for $20.) The ALJ's claim of sufficient transparency from unwieldy and expensive transcripts casts a pall of non-transparency over the whole proceedings.
Please express your outrage at this ruling to the following:
ALJ Melanie Darling , ALJ Kevin Dudney , Commissioner Michel Florio
copy to and
Dear Commissioner Florio, ALJ Darling and ALJ Dudney:
I support WEM's Motion for the Commission to provide a webcast of the May 13-17, 2013 hearings in the San Onofre investigation (I1210013), and to allow videotaping, pursuant to the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act. I urge you to reverse your denial of this motion.
[your name & city]
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The Ecological Options Network
"Media working for Another World"
CPUC Rules That CPUC Hearing On San Onofre Cannot Be Video Taped
From: "Dudney, Kevin"
Next week's evidentiary hearings in I.12-10-013 are open to the public. Transcripts of the hearings will be produced promptly by the CPUC's court reporters. These provisions provide appropriate transparency and public access to the hearings.
Therefore, it is ruled that the May 13-17 hearings in I.12-10-013 will not be videotaped or webcast.
ALJs Darling and Dudney
Administrative Law Judge
California Public Utilities Commission
SF CPUC Judge Goes Off & Out Of Control-Protesters Demand Shut Down San Onofre Nuke Plant Now!
At an administrative hearing on January 8, 2012 of the California Public Utility Commission on the multi-million dollars costs at the broken down San Onofre nuclear power plant run by Southern California Edison, Administrative Judge Melanie M. Darling rushed off the bench and grabbed a banner against nuclear power. The judge previously had allowed the Southern California Edison bosses to continue forcing rate payers and the public to pay for the broken nuclear plant and also allowed SCE to possibly seal information about the dangerous nuclear plant from the public and stall turning in the information to the hearing.
The judge adjourned the meeting and charged into the hearing room to grab the banner that was already being taken down. She said that she would not allow the hearing to turn into a a "shoutfest". The lights were also turned off by the staff to prevent any documentary coverage of the altercation.
The chair of the California Public Utilities Commission is former Southern California Edison CEO Michael Peevey who has a record of corruption and kickbacks from the utilities and is kept in office by pro-utlility governor Jerry Brown who appoints the Commissioners who are supposed to protect the people of California and do oversight of the utilities including Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric. Peevey has done damage control for these criminal operators who have killed dozens of people and contaminated thousands of people in Northern and Southern California.
The anti-nuclear activists later had a press conference on the steps of the California State Building in San Francisco and pledged to build bigger support to shutdown the dangerous nuclear plant.
Southern California Edison SCE and Pacifica Gas and Electric Company PG&E have also retaliated against nuclear whistleblowers by firing them and illegally preventing from working in the utility industry. This felony criminal conspiracy to target the nuclear inspectors and whistleblowers at nuclear plants and in the nuclear industry has been covered up by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency and CPUC which do oversight on the utilities.
The protest and press conference was organized by a coalition of groups including No Nukes Action Committee, Womens Energy Matters, Occupy San Francisco, Nuclear Free California, Eon, United Public Workers For Action and Coalition to Decommission San Onofre.
For more information on No Nukes Action Go to
United Public Workers For Action
Women Energy Matters
Nuclear Free California
Production of United Public Workers For Action
Anti-NUKE Activists Speak Out At CPUC On San Onofre NUKE Plant "Shut It Down"
California anti-nuclear activists spoke out at the August 3, 2012
meeting of the California Public Utility Commission in San Francisco
about the threat to the people of California at the dangerous nuclear
plant near San Diego. The utilities which control the commission
through the former Southern California Edison executive Michael Peevey
who is chair of the commission refused to do a full investigation of the
causes of the accident and the cover-up by the utility which is costing
the people of California hundreds of millions of dollars to rate payers
and the public.
No Nukes Action Committee
Nuclear Free California
Brown's Corrupt Corporate Controlled CPUC Comes Under Pressure From CA Legislature "The PUC certainly appears to be an imperial fiefdom"
Legislators take steps to rein in California Public Utilities Commission
By Steven Harmon
Bay Area News Group
Posted: 05/09/2013 05:58:17 AM PDT
Updated: 05/09/2013 05:58:24 AM PDT
SACRAMENTO -- Legislators on Wednesday moved to rein in the Public Utilities Commission, taking the highly unusual step of wiping out its $1.4 billion budget to force the regulatory agency to justify how it spends its money.
The PUC, which one lawmaker called a "fiefdom," would also be stripped of its ability to start nonprofit organizations that generate programs that hike rates without the approval of the Legislature under language approved by the Assembly budget subcommittee on resources and transportation.
Under fire for its lax attitude toward safety, its cozy relations with utilities it's supposed to be regulating and its sloppy internal budgeting, the PUC has for weeks faced the wrath of legislators seething over its response to the 2010 San Bruno gas pipe explosion that left eight people dead and destroyed dozens of homes.
"Maybe the law needs to change so it reads that the Legislature or governor have the ability to remove people, change the dynamic of leadership, or (change) the authority we have so you do report back to us," said Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose. "I think it's clear the trust level is not there."
Only PUC commissioners, appointed by the governor, have the ability to remove PUC staff, including the executive director, Paul Clanon, who critics say should resign.
The PUC's role in overseeing limousine safety also came under questioning, as legislators sought to understand how five women died in
a fire that erupted so quickly inside a limousine on the San Mateo Bridge last weekend.
When asked what requirements the PUC has on inspections for limousines that have been altered in size -- as was the case with the 28-foot limousine that caught fire -- Clanon could not answer. Lawmakers told him to come back with an answer.
The PUC's proposal to slap PG&E with a $2.25 billion penalty for the San Bruno pipeline explosion rather than impose a fine came under fire from legislators. The reason for the criticism is that by being hit with a "penalty" rather than a fine, PG&E shareholders would be able to recoup at least a third of its losses through federal and state tax deductions.
But Clanon pointed out that money recouped from penalties is used to invest in new safety projects, while fines go directly into the general fund.
Investing in safety projects is important, responded Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, the chairman of the Budget Committee. But the PUC "also should take an active look at making sure of whose pocket it comes out of."
Though shareholders would take the brunt of the penalties, Californians as a whole will suffer when tax collections drop because of the shareholders' ability to deduct their losses, Blumenfield said.
Saying it would impose a burden on his staff, already steeped in work to shore up its corrective actions on safety regulations, Clanon objected to the proposal to "zero-out" the PUC's $1.4 billion budget for the state's 2014-15 budget -- a process in which every expenditure would be reviewed and justified through audits by the Department of Finance and the state auditor, allowing legislators to go over staffing, program and other decisions.
A Department of Finance official also asked legislators to back off from an immediate overhaul of the PUC's budget, saying it would be impossible to do in just three months as the administration prepares for the following year's budget.
"Zero-basing is a very time-consuming, labor intensive effort," said Jesse McGwinn. "When you add to that the audits, we'd like to make sure zero-based budgeting is done properly and that we start with just a portion of the department and move forward in increments."
But legislators voted 4-0 for the zero-based budgeting, saying they were in no mood to slow down their quest to shake out the lingering effects of years of complacency at the agency.
"The PUC certainly appears to be an imperial fiefdom, and I think we need to have a full and thorough exploration of the activities of the commission -- and budgeting is a great way to do that," said Assemblyman Rick Gordon, D-Menlo Park.
As legislators debated whether to take away the PUC's authority to create nonprofits with funds from settlements without the oversight of the Legislature, Clanon suggested that the PUC's ability to create the nonprofits is constitutionally valid, leading Blumenfield to ask: "Does that mean if we pass this law in our budget that you will ignore it?"
Clanon fired back: "Of course not. Nobody should ever have the impression that the Public Utilities Commission or I personally would ever ignore a law, and frankly, sir, I resent that implication."
Blumenfield said that he'd been given the impression that the PUC didn't care much what the Legislature thought.
Leaders at the PUC have failed to fully acknowledge how grave the situation is, suggesting they "think the controversies surrounding them will simply blow over with time," Blumenfield said "Too often, it seems the PUC feels impervious to the actions of the Legislature. Today is a reality check for an out-of-touch leadership at the PUC."
Contact Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101. Follow him at Twitter.com/ssharmon. Read the Political Blotter atIBAbuzz.com/politics.
Gov Brown Does Damage Control For Corrupt CPUC Agency Chair Michael Peevey While Workers And Public Die-Safety not PUC's top priority, execs say
Democratic Controlled Legisture Refuses To Hire More Health And Safety Experts and helps keep Peevey In Job
Safety not PUC's top priority, execs say
Brant Ward, The Chronicle
Firefighters battle a fire that destroyed an entire neighborhood on Claremont Drive in San Bruno in September 2010. The blaze was caused by a natural gas explosion at an underground PG&E pipeline.
By Wyatt Buchanan
April 17, 2013
Top executives and others at the California Public Utilities Commission told interviewers that the agency has an overly cozy relationship with the utilities it regulates and fosters a lackadaisical culture that discourages tough enforcement and fines, according to a confidential report obtained by The Chronicle.
The report by a business consulting group found that public safety was not the top priority at the agency that is responsible for ensuring the safety of gas pipelines and other utility-related infrastructure. Instead, the PUC remains focused on pursuing affordable rates and environmental concerns, workers said.
Business Advantage Consulting of Folsom (Sacramento County) studied the PUC at its own behest as the agency drew criticism during the federal investigation of the PG&E gas line explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people in 2010. Critics said the agency should have better regulated the utility to ensure that it adhered to safety regulations.
Top PUC officials have previously acknowledged that public safety was not the highest priority before the San Bruno blast, and they pledged to change. In August 2011, Commission Executive Director Paul Clanon told a legislative committee, "The days of assuming a pipeline is safe unless we have reason to think it isn't - those days are over."
Utilities not challenged
But agency staff members who were interviewed late last year said that public safety is still not a priority and that efforts to enhance it aren't taken seriously.
Some said internal efforts to focus on safety are nothing more than lip service, and they said Clanon exhibits "antisafety" attitudes and behaviors with his resistance to challenging utilities and levying fines.
Business Advantage Consulting reviewed PUC documents, interviewed 15 commission executives, including Clanon, and held focus groups with other staff members in an effort to create a change in the commission's operating culture regarding public safety.
No names are attached to the concerns raised, but those quoted had a wide variety of criticisms about the PUC and its public safety responsibilities.
Cliff Owen, Associated Press
Paul Clanon, California Public Utilities Commission, questions PG&E employees during the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing in Washington, Tuesday, March 1, 2011, to gather additional factual information for the ongoing investigation into the natural gas pipeline rupture and explosion that occurred on Sept. 9, 2010, in San Bruno.
"If we were enforcing the rules, we would not have to worry about a safety culture. If we were holding the utilities accountable and doing what we were supposed to be doing, San Bruno would never have happened," one person told interviewers.
Another said, "There has been a lot of lip service to safety. I have not seen enough action yet to back up the talk."
On the relationship between regulators and utilities, the report stated: "Several respondents report that both commissioners and PUC staff members have close ties to the industries that they are supposed to be regulating. This has resulted in reluctance on the part of commissioners and the PUC to impose significant fines and other consequences."
One person interviewed said, "The regulated industries and lobbyists come to the PUC and see how casual the attitude and culture is here. As a result, they don't feel that they have to comply - they are not worried. The message to them is that we are not paying attention."
'Views and perceptions'
The 24-page document states: "The issues identified in this report represent the views and perceptions of the respondents. This report is not an evaluation of the objective truth of those views and perceptions."
A statement from the commission in response to the report provided to The Chronicle asserted that the commission "has made safety an underlying principle in all of its actions." About the report, the statement said, "The report is the result of the informal survey; it is not an analysis of our safety culture or conclusions by our consultants, but a reporting-back of what some employees said in informal focus groups."
The report, and the PUC's efforts to fulfill its public safety requirements, will be discussed Wednesday at a legislative hearing at the Capitol, where Clanon is expected to testify.
The commission is determining how big of a fine to levy against PG&E for the San Bruno explosion, but the agency must first determine whether PG&E violated state rules.
Both the PUC and PG&E are headquartered in San Francisco.
In describing an "overly cozy relationship" with utilities, one person interviewed said, "For years, the commissioners did not want to levy fines for safety violations. The culture was, 'We will work with the utilities without using the stick.' "
Another said, "Safety staff did not feel empowered to suggest large fines because the commissioners would not approve them."
The Assembly Budget Subcommittee 3 on Resources and Transportation's analysis of the report states: "While the commission is to be applauded for bringing in a third party to help uncover and expose its safety culture issues, these findings are not only troubling but may surpass a consultant's ability to solve."
A year ago, PUC officials went before the committee and requested an additional $6.5 million from the Legislature for 46 additional safety positions.
But the Legislative Analyst's Office found that the commission had 31 vacant positions in its consumer safety division - money they could have spent for new people but didn't - and the Legislature ultimately approved about half of the PUC's request.
Developing a strategy
The commission has not requested more safety positions for the division in this year's budget.
"We will use the results of the report to help us define what we need to change, develop strategies and actions to implement the changes, and ensure accountability as the process continues," the PUC statement read.
The consulting firm sent the report with a date of Jan. 25 of this year. Clanon sent it to directors at the commission on Feb. 11. The next steps include the development of a strategy to create a safety culture, coaching sessions, assessments and finally a report on results.
Online: See the report at http://bit.ly/XPYIK3.
Wyatt Buchanan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: wbuchanan [at] sfchronicle.com
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Safety-not-PUC-s-top-priority-execs-say-4438943.php#ixzz2QjG9RzxE
CPUC Judge Melanie Darling has physically grabbed banners in the hearing room and now wants to ban any video taping of the public hearing. The California Public Utility Commission is run by corrupt former CEO Southern California Edison CEO Michael Peevey who Governor Brown continues to keep in power.
Southern California Edison and their lawyers run the California Public Utilities Commission despite growing protests from victims of PG&E San Bruno explosion, cell phones, PG&E electronic meters and their continued effort to continue the operation of the broken San Onofre nuclear power plant.