A California anti-nuclear group has apparently dropped its powerful attorney after Environmental Progress reported on his still-unexplained involvement with an aspect of the settlement for the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), which is currently under criminal investigation.
In a motion filed September 14 with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility (A4NR), uses a new attorney, and lists Geesman as "information only."
This is a major shift. Geesman has since 2011 filed dozens of motions for A4NR, and the group has used no other attorney. And why would they? Geesman, a close advisor to Governor Jerry Brown since the late 1970s, is arguably one of the most powerful energy attorneys in the state.
But in a motion filed with the CPUC, Environmental Progress (EP) noted that Geesman was directly involved in the activity — using SONGS settlement money to fund a university greenhouse gas research institute — that is the apparent focus of federal and state criminal investigations:
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, which interviewed Attorney Geesman, President Peevey and Attorney Geesman spoke privately during consideration of the SONGS settlement proposal, and discussed setting up a “research group” to “examine impacts of greenhouse gas on the environment:”
Alliance attorney John Geesman also noted there was no money set aside to pay for studying the impact of burning so much extra fossil fuels to make up for the lost San Onofre output.
“The proposed settlement ignores core CPUC priorities,” Geesman wrote.
Two months later, Peevey called Geesman out of the blue, according to a disclosure filed by the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility lawyer in July. The two men talked about setting up a research group to examine impacts of greenhouse gas on the environment.
Peevey “did not mention any UC connection in his call to me,” Geesman told U-T San Diego. “Let me add that he did not mention any dollar amount or how he intended to address CO2 concerns.”
The CPUC’s disclosure requirements for private “ex-parte” communications between a party and a Commissioner call for a description of the “content” of the communication. (Rule 8.4(c)) A4NR’s related notice of ex parte communication did not mention discussion of setting up a “research group” or how it could be funded through the proposed SONGS settlement.
Ex parte communication practices, including those by the lead proponent of the Joint Proposal in this case, PG&E, are a central concern driving legislative calls for reform.
After he was confronted by the San Diego Union Tribune about his failure to disclose the contents of his conversation with Peevey, Geesman changed his story. "I did file the required ex parte disclosure. Under the PUC rules, you are not supposed to disclose what the PUC decision-maker (Peevey) said, only what you said."
After the story broke, we asked:
Did Geesman talk about the research center, as he told the SD Union Tribune last year, or did he just listen to Peevey, as he claims above? The answer matters because from the first moment that Peevey laid out settlement terms to Southern California Edison in Poland, which included a $5 - 10 million line item for a research center, Peevey was insisting that Geesman be involved....
As a party to PG&E's proposed settlement, A4NR needs to answer explain what its role and Geesman's role were in the SONGS settlement.
A4NR was supposedly in opposition to the SONGS settlement — just as Sierra Club is supposedly protesting PG&E's Application to raise rates and close Diablo Canyon — and yet A4NR did nothing to stop the settlement from being rammed through.
Whatever attorney A4NR uses, the organization and its Executive Director, Rochelle Becker, need to answer for what exactly Geesman was doing when he helped lay the justification for Peevey's demand for funding for a university research center.