San Onofre

Reporters in 2010 were given a rare tour of the San Onofre nuclear plant in 2010, in anticipation of the installation of replacement steam generators. The flawed generators precipitated closure of the plant amid a radiation leak in 2012. — John Gastaldo

Warsaw was not the only undisclosed gathering while nuclear plant shutdown pact took shape

By Morgan Lee
May 23, 2015 – 03:48 p.m.

The public was none the wiser.

All the key parties in the room for the only public hearing on the $4.7 billion settlement agreement for shutdown costs at the failed San Onofre nuclear plant knew that the pact had its origins at a secret meeting in Poland.

The consumer advocate and power company executive who agreed to the settlement, and two regulators who would sign off, all knew about handwritten notes laying out a framework on the stationery of the luxury Hotel Bristol Warsaw.

Even as iconoclastic San Diego attorney Michael Aguirre grilled them about suspected backchannel communications at that May 2014 hearing in San Francisco, the meeting remained a secret.

When California Public Utilities Commission members went to approve the agreement last November, assigning 70 percent of costs to utility customers, they did so by approving a document that repeatedly asserted there was no collusion baked into the deal.

A trove of emails and corporate correspondence released in the past two months shows the extent to which the parties knew about the encounter between top regulators and a Southern California Edison executive during a study trip to Poland in March 2013. They participated in subsequent private gatherings of their own.

The documents reveal at least 45 more previously undisclosed confidential conversations, phone calls and email exchanges among senior regulators and utility executives, not including minor scheduling matters.

The private communications date back to November 2012, shortly after the agency opened its investigation into costs and responsibilities for the radiation leak that forced the shutdown of the 44-year-old twin-domed power plant on San Diego County’s north coast.

They include a business lunch, numerous dinners, phone calls and chance encounters like a shared car ride from the San Francisco airport. They extend to a private meeting in the offices of then-commission President Michael Peevey on the morning of May 14, 2014, just before the hearing.

None of the communications – even the meeting that same day – were disclosed under questioning at the hearing. None of the communications were reported on disclosure forms for behind-the-scenes communications, and Edison says they did not have to be.

‘Nice lunch with Peevey’

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