SAN DIEGO - A high-profile San Diego attorney is speaking out after he was cursed out while cameras were rolling by the head of the California Public Utilities Commission.
The San Onofre nuclear plant has been shut down, and the final bill for dismantling it will be a big one. That was the topic inside a recent evidentiary hearing of the CPUC in San Francisco.
Mike Aguirre, former San Diego City Attorney, was representing a ratepayer who was upset about a proposed settlement between utility companies and consumer advocacy groups requiring ratepayers to cover $3.3 billion of the $4.7 billion bill to decommission the nuclear plant. The plant was retired in 2013 after the failure of several steam generators.
During the hearing, Aguirre wondered why the settlement talks were held in secret. He questioned whether CPUC President Michael Peevey, who once worked for plant owners Southern California Edison, had any contact with his former employer. That would be improper, because the CPUC must approve the settlement.
Near the end of the three-hour hearing, there was an angry outburst directed at Aguirre.
"I'm not here to answer your goddamn questions. Now shut up -- shut up!" yelled Peevey.
Aguirre said he was caught by surprise.
"I felt like now you're showing your true colors. In the legal profession, when you see a witness lash out like that, it means there is something to hide. Ratepayers look to the commission to protect them and that's not happening," said Aguirre.
In a statement, the CPUC says Aguirre's questions were "improperly posed" and outside the scope of the hearing.
Aguirre said a potential conflict of interest is always within the scope.
On Thursday, Aguirre filed arguments with the CPUC for why he thinks ratepayers are getting a bad deal. It includes a motion to recuse an administrative law judge overseeing the process because of bias.
As for the settlement deal, Aguirre said ratepayers shouldn't pay the price for the mistakes of others.
Some consumer advocates like the settlement, saying it will prevent costly litigation.
The CPUC will decide this summer whether to approve the settlement.
In a statement, Peevey said:
"The proposed settlement was conceived and agreed to by the settling parties without any knowledge by me of its contents. I remain focused on evaluating it on its merits. My commitment since joining the CPUC more than 12 years ago is to serve the public interest by promoting safety and ensuring reliable utility service at reasonable rates."