Jeff McDonald

By Jeff McDonald | July 27, 2015 – 5:09 p.m.

State regulators do not appear ready to comply with a July 31 deadline to release thousands of emails requested by the chairman of the Assembly committee overseeing the California Public Utilities Commission.

Commission President Michael Picker said in a letter on Friday that he is working to respond to the lawmaker’s request for emails pertaining to the failed San Onofre power plant north of Oceanside, but gave no indication he would turn over any records by the deadline this Friday.

The commission president said it is not up to him to “interfere” in an ongoing proceeding in which he is not the commissioner assigned to oversee the matter.

“As president, I do not have any power to order an action disclosing material that other commissioners do not also wield,” Picker wrote to Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, who is chairman of the Committee on Utilities and Commerce.

“Nor do I believe it is appropriate for a commissioner who is not the assigned commissioner to interfere with the fair and efficient processing of an ongoing investigation or other proceeding, particularly when these matters are undergoing active deliberation in a commission proceeding in which legal issues concerning the appropriateness of disclosure have not been adjudicated.”

Rendon first requested the San Onofre emails in March without success. Earlier this month, he issued a July 31 deadline for Picker to comply with the request.

Picker and commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper did not respond Monday to requests for comment. Picker and Rendon met privately Monday but neither disclosed what was discussed over the half-hour meeting.

After they met, Rendon issued a statement saying, “I continue to be disturbed by the commission’s lack of accountability to the Legislature and to the public as a whole. More than four months after my initial request for documents related to San Onofre, it’s clear to me that the Legislature’s oversight authority over the CPUC is not being respected.”

Picker was nominated as commission president in December and faces a confirmation hearing in the state Senate next month.

The dispute over releasing utility emails began after Picker testified before the Assembly committee in March, when he told legislators he was committed to reforming the utilities commission.

The agency, which regulates the for-profit utilities Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, has been battered in recent months by reports showing regulators held secret meetings with utility executives and exchanged private emails to help the companies in ongoing proceedings.

State and federal prosecutors are conducting separate criminal investigations into undisclosed dealings, including communications that led to Edison and SDG&E customers being charged more than $3 billion for the premature closure of San Onofre. The nuclear plant closed in January 2012 amid a radiation leak after Edison installed faulty steam generators.

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