San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant

The San Onofre nuclear power plant in northern San Diego County, was shut down in 2013, and the Public Utilities Commission sunsequently said ratepayers should pay 70 percent of the closure costs. The decision is now being contested.

Capitol Alert
By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
March 9, 2016 – 10:44 AM

  • Justice J. Anthony Kline had blocked order to review communications
  • Lawyers seeking email access demanded that Kline recuse himself
  • Other judges will now decide whether emails should be released

Appellate Justice J. Anthony Kline, one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s oldest friends, has quietly stepped away from handling a case involving Brown’s communications with the Public Utilities Commission.

Last month, Kline had abruptly, without a hearing, blocked a Superior Court judge’s declaration that the communications, reportedly 65 emails, were subject to the state’s open records laws and could be reviewed and possibly released.

That action drew fire from the attorneys who were seeking the emails, principally former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, as they contest the PUC’s decree that ratepayers should bear 70 percent of the costs of shutting down the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The San Onofre settlement was negotiated privately by Michael Peevey, the PUC’s former president, with officials of Southern California Edison, the plant’s majority owner, most infamously during a meeting in a hotel in Warsaw, Poland.

Aguirre wants to know whether Brown was involved in the settlement and demanded his communications with the PUC, which is supposed to be an independent agency. He asked San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith to review the emails under the California Public Records Act and Goldsmith agreed, rejecting a PUC assertion that the emails are part of a rate case and therefore can only he considered by an appellate court.

“Withholding recordings involving allegedly secret ex parte deals between CPUC officials and utility companies in violation of the Public Records Act is not a regulatory function of the CPUC,” Goldsmith declared. The PUC insists that the communications in question have nothing to do with San Onofre and were not sent to or received from the governor personally.

Almost immediately, the PUC appealed Goldsmith’s ruling, and Kline, a presiding justice of the state District Court of Appeal in San Francisco, issued a stay of Goldsmith’s decision without a hearing.

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