At a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) meeting about San Onofre held in Dana Point, California on October 9th, 2012, it was the unionists who tried to crowd out our shut-down message. To entice them to do so, Southern California Edison (SCE) had offered workers all-you-can-eat dinners in the plant parking lot, free tee shirts, bus transport to and from the meeting, and best of all, but tacitly, a chance to be thought of as a team player.
The busses arrived noisily during our press conference, which had to be held outside the entrance to the hotel because they wouldn't let the press trucks on the property for the live feeds.
The NRC PR person wasn't any more cooperative: We had set up a literature table at the entrance to the auditorium, but he tried to move us inside because the NRC needed both tables. "No" I said, and gave them one of them.
When we came back from the press conference, the hall was filled with union members, many of whom had taken literature from the table we had insisted on keeping. We'd wished we had brought more literature!
The unionists were loud sometimes, but polite, and as the night wore on, we got louder, because while they rode back on their busses, which ran back and forth all evening, a much greater percentage of activists chose to stay all the way through.
At a California Public Utilities Commission hearing in Irvine last Thursday (October 25th, 2012), we were out-maneuvered by the local Chambers of Commerce. What enticed them to come was the thousands of dollars (of ratepayer money) Edison gives local CoCs each year, so their chapter presidents will speak well of SCE at times like this. They served up Edison's line dutifully, one after another. Nevertheless we "won the day" with a 5-0 unanimous vote authorizing the go-ahead with an investigation into San Onofre's steam generator problems.
But the public comment period at the CPUC hearing, like at the NRC meeting, was a travesty. The CPUC promised to probably, maybe, possibly give us (the ratepayers) back every penny since January 31st, 2012 if SCE can't get the plant up and running again. That's more than half a billion dollars, but don't hold your fossil-fuel-and-Fukushima-poisoned breath waiting for it.
The CPUC was required by law to begin the investigation within a few weeks anyway, and they emphasized that it would be "thorough," but few of us were given a chance to speak about what it should cover, although dozens of people had driven or carpooled to Irvine thinking they would have a chance to tell the CPUC how they feel. It turned out our input wasn't welcome and the decision seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
The local Chambers of Commerce conspired both to use up the public comment period and to give themselves a bad name -- with CPUC Chairman Michael Peavey's help, who didn't seem to notice the loaded dice. At the very least, he could have told them to stop repeating each other, and certainly would have told us that, if we had droned on in the same fashion.
Instead, Peavey started the meeting late and let this, that, and the other thing prevent him from hearing the citizens. Very few of us had spoken amidst the unionists and Chamber of Commerce people, who all professed their love for San Onofre's supposedly "safe, reliable, affordable energy" as if -- as Gene Stone pointed out in the press conference afterwards -- they had all got the same memo with the talking points they were supposed to emphasize.
The rules for public comment had stated not to do things like that, and also said that spokespersons for organizations of people present could get extra time (that is, more than one minute). But suddenly chairman and former SCE president Michael Peavey had heard enough, and announced the last three speakers. And that would have been that, but Gary Headrick stood up, and with the crowd behind him, forced the issue and was granted three full minutes, which he used to read our group's statement. (It was a team effort all the way: His wife Laurie had already "snuck" in some comments with the Chamber of Commerce people, representing a CoC herself (a green one).)
Another small victory for our side was that the very first public speaker had been Martha Sullivan, who worked at the CPUC for 20 years, until 1998, and was speaking for the Del Mar City Council (that's why she got to speak first). It was a brilliant move on her part. She had tried several times to educate us about how the CPUC operates, to varying degrees of success. When she kicked off the public comment period, we thought things were going to go pretty well, but those CoC people just kept prattling on and on and on.... I stopped videotaping, but wish I hadn't, just so I could demonstrate the repetitiveness of their claims. I'm certain that none of them are familiar with the technical details of what's gone wrong at San Onofre -- they only know that it's "off." They aren't aware of the history of the steam generator replacement project, or of San Onofre's lingering problems with its workforce, or the used reactor core storage hazards, or that children are far more likely to be harmed by radiation than adults -- they just had a basic script to read. The Chamber of Commerce folks know that Southern California Edison contributes millions of dollars (of rate payer money) to local CoC's, as well as to children's cancer hospitals, local nature preserves and so on -- anything that looks like community caring. The media gets millions in advertising dollars from SCE -- but not if they run a lot of negative pieces. Then that dries up.
After Gary Headrick spoke, we could see a staff member say something to Peavey, who then announced that there would be one more speaker.
It would be young Zora, 13, had come all the way in from Idyllwild with her father to speak. As I was setting up the camera at the beginning of the meeting, she handed me a note with what she intended to say. (I had met her in August.) One of her friends had spoken at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing two weeks earlier while Zora and another friend stood by her in support. This time Zora was alone at the podium, and stole the show. Here is a link to her marvelous minute in Irvine:, along with Gary's presentation, the CPUC decision, and the press conference activists held afterwards:
Subject: Re: surfing Irvine today
To: cathy iwane
Funny, I thought I was the lucky one, standing next to YOU! Of course actually your husband's the lucky one, managing to surf all day yesterday --- good for him! Looking at the maps of debris, it looks like, if he's far enough south of Fukushima, the waters come up from the south to him, so theoretically he's safe.... a surfer got killed by a shark on this coast this week (Redondo Beach I think?) so there's hazards everywhere.... :~}
Zora sure stole the day yesterday!!
At 10:32 PM 10/25/2012 -0700, Cathy wrote:
>I was so proud to be standing next to Ace for an hour and a half, with not even a nose bleed seat, because I also had to drop my 7th grader off at school in Solana Beach to get to Irvine by 8:45. Not only am I happy to be surrounded by movers and shakers making waves (the apathy in Japan until March, 2012 was too much to bear for me along with food issues and the hush-hush party-line of the government and schools). But more, I had chills beholding the brave Zora, the 13 year old girl from Idyllwild, who set the record straight about the nuclear waste and economic waste of it all. So for me, the day glow-glo green signs complementing a lovely slice of the semblance of democracy to be had at Irvine City Hall today, was enough for me to telephone my husband back in Japan, after the unanimous vote for OII into SanO....at his time, 4:30am.
>But that was okay because the swell in southwest Japan is blessing him of late and he was getting up anyway....to go surf, while he still can. Who knows about the waters of our home next year? For this year, my 50 year old husband cannot live without it.....even if those waters were tainted, even slightly radioactive. This is the bittersweet part of 3/11. Some of us on this planet depend on the natural currents that Mother earth provides for our balance, our sanity, in a sometimes crazy world.
>My husband and daddy of his 2 girls, now in California, surfed to his heart's content today.
>Thanks to all of you.
>Cathy Iwane in Solana Beach
>From: Beverly Findlay-Kaneko
>To: Jerry Collamer ; SCG- Team <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2012 8:05 PM
>Subject: Re: surfing Irvine today
>Would have liked to have seen the day-glo green signs. I was in the overflow room with the other moms who had kids to drop off at school and couldn't make it early enough to even get a nosebleed seat, or a high enough place on the roster to speak. We did perk up when we heard Gary persist off camera until he got a chance to represent all of us. Bravo! Lots of applause in our room for all of "our" people!
>Beverly in HB
>--- On Fri, 26/10/12, Jerry Collamer <email@example.com> wrote:
>From: Jerry Collamer
>Subject: surfing Irvine today
>Date: Friday, 26 October, 2012, 10:00 AM
>Ed and I planned to go surfing this a.m. -
>Thursday, Oct. 25th 2011.
>Thinking better of it, we drove north to
>surf Irvine's CPUC's Come to Jesus
>meeting held in Irvine's sumptuous
>council chamber; to sit, and clap, and
>cheer, and hold up signs Gary handed
>out seconds before the meeting started.
>Sign reads: Cut our Losses Not a Penny
>More to Edison. Pretty much says it all.
>Ed and I were up in he cheap seats -
>the nosebleed section. Albeit a comfy
>Ace, with camera and tripod was
>positioned right above us, elbow to
>elbow in a long line of video cameras
>Mr. Peevey, CPUC's head guy on
>the dais made it clear, time was of
>the essence: 2-minutes per speaker,
>shrunk to 1-minute per speaker as
>the time-clock wound down to 10:30:
>our side's bewitching hour -
>but Gary had yet to speak.
>Not holding back, Gary announced
>as much to the dais,
>"What about me? I represent the
>multitudes not here, that would be
>here, if not for it being 10:30 on a
>Chairman Peevey, facing the packed
>bleachers (aka reality), asked the room,
>"Who here, does Gary represent?"
>The bleachers turned instant day-glow
>green in Gary-signs. It was obvious.
>Mr. Peevey to Gary,
>"You have 3-minutes."
>Long story short: surfing Irvine went
>well today, thanks to all of you.
>You make this old surfer proud, to be
>in your brave, informed, active presence.
>You are the best, of the very best.
** Ace Hoffman,
** POB 1936, Carlsbad CA 92018