“This is the biggest nuclear blunder of all time!” – Ray Lutz, Founder/Citizens’ Oversight.
A corruption of human conscience has permitted 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste to be put in thin-walled steel drums and buried forever – out of sight – in faulty concrete … one hundred feet away and inches above the high tide line of … the Pacific Ocean.
Yes. The latest and perhaps most egregious American example of public health, safety, and local democracy being sacrificed maliciously to unseen corporate masters is ongoing in the courts and on the streets of San Diego County, California. The fight has begun anew on behalf of 8.7 million southern Californians who, thanks to media complicity, know little to nothing about another pending nuclear disaster at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), mere miles away. This is not the first episode in this saga, but the third: Public Good vs. Southern California Edison Company (Edison) and its allied minions of supposed public servants.
The inherent national problem in effecting localized legislation and/or regulations that protect the local community while countering corporate methods that maximize profit in spite of public safety, were showcased in the San Diego County Board of Supervisors chambers on Wed. May 10, 2017. The large, plush, mahogany-paneled hall was taken over on this day by the members of the California Coastal Commission (CCC), a state agency established in 1972 via state proposition 20 and made up of twelve reportedly unpaid voting members (six chosen from the general public and six appointed elected officials) whose votes are the final say on all commercial and residential projects anywhere along the state’s coast lines, rivers, lagoons, waterways and estuaries. This panel has been historically notorious for denying construction project permits and has been draconian in its requirements for same. Their decisions over the years have been duplicitous and political.
During the first round of the multi-year story that finally resulted in the forced closure of SONGS in 2013, the original two regulatory agencies involved then, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), were actually at all times the adversaries of public safety, but the best friend of Edison. This day, as Round Three unfolds, the state’s CCC is Edison’s newest BFF!
Beyond all reason and past public outrage about Edison’s proposed disposal of the SONGS radioactive waste, the CCC has already issued Edison a permit to do as they requested: just bury the shit! This method was of course the most inexpensive method of disposal for the extremely toxic, nuclear waste for Edison – public safety be damned. Conveniently the CCC permit approval provides the way for Edison to legitimize, if not legalize, their deliberate creation of their eventual radioactive damnation of millions of souls, while removing all legal and financial liability.
As seen in similar collusion nationally, these conspiracies to defraud the public are best kept secret. This proved to be true, since it was revealed by Citizens’ Oversight that there had been many surreptitious late night private meetings between Edison and state CCC members before the permit was ultimately issued without any public comment. Here, this day in San Diego is the big chance for that public comment.
In moments, however, thus would begin the biggest problem of this day’s public forum. A problem bigger than buried nuclear waste. A problem for California residents and their environment as well as a crime repeated too often in other national environmental disasters across America: You (the Public) …Do… Not… matter!
“Excuse me! …Excuse me! Would you mind paying attention?!” boomed former San Diego City Attorney, Mike Aguirre, from the podium while standing before the CCC members. “I’m speaking to you. It would be nice if you would listen!”
Aguirre is a pain in the ass; hawkish, straight talking, unafraid and vociferous – Edison’s worst nightmare. To many in San Diego he is one of the very few public champions. And … Aguirre does not go quietly!
Leaving private practice, Aguirre became San Diego City Attorney from 2004-2008 and knows well the lack of moral compass in many politicians and civil servants. Previously, after years in the US Justice Department as an Assistant U.S. Attorney investigating pension racketeering which led to his appointment as Assistant Counsel to the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, he then entered private practice with a emphasis on pension securities fraud. His years fighting endemic political financial corruption on behalf of the public made him the perfect adversary to the existing San Diego City Council, which was rife with underhanded insider corruption when he re-entered public office in 2004. His tenure with San Diego was tumultuous, as he publicly and vocally challenged individual city council members, the mayor, city agencies, the San Diego Chargers football team and local developers over their many violations of public trust and finances, especially the city council’s illegal use of San Diego City pension funds.
But today the CCC, despite this being the forum for public comment, was not here to listen to the public. Aguirre was showcasing this problem now.
“Yes, I’m speaking to you!” Aguirre bellowed at Chairwoman Dayna Bochco, who was obviously still ignoring him, sitting sideways to his podium while scribbling away on some unseen papers. “This is an extremely important matter. It would be nice if you would pay attention!”
Thin, ageing and annoyed, Bochco popped her head up, momentarily peering at Aguirre over her silver wire-trimmed spectacles with a pursed grin of supreme condescension. Bochco exemplifies the arrogance of America’s elite. Married to Hollywood big-wig Stephen Bochco and having only experience as an entertainment attorney she has no credentials in environmental issues, except for an obvious disdain for the public. She is the working example of the prostitution of conscience shown regularly in virtually all issues of public safety by those thus entitled.
Assuring Aguirre that she was indeed listening to him, she went back to her paperwork; head down. Another CCC member preoccupied himself with his breakfast snack, while another slowly ate an apple while enjoying the brightly light white ceiling above the lush wooden appointments of the Council Chambers. Not one CCC member, despite Aguirre’s protest, seemed to be paying close attention. Why would they? Their personal crimes of corporate sponsorship were to be covered up today, not examined in detail. Their crimes in supporting Edison’s massive profit at SONGS at the public’s expense were, to them, a done deal. The speaker: an inconvenience.
Moments before, in an all too common occurrence by public officials nationally, this day’s chance at public oration had been severely restricted by the CCC. Much to the surprise of the protesters who had gathered together an hour before to sign-up to each express their concern to the CCC, these public servants had already prepared their first surprise: public comment would be limited to a mere thirty minutes in total … and just two minutes per speaker!
The protesters quickly revised their plan. Collectively, all agreed to give their time to Aguirre and his co-organizer, Ray Lutz.
Lutz is the founder of Citizens’ Oversight which is the sole public entity interested in public safety and regulation of SONGS and the man whose organization was the spearhead of a collective public effort that brought together scientists, local politicians, civic leaders and the public, forcing the eventual closure of SONGS – barely – four years ago. Dogged in his leadership, Lutz is unfailingly polite, yet stern in his presentation of the facts at hand, while all the time showing patience and confidence to the face of his adversaries. He always has time to answer questions from the public and handles each question with the quiet charm of a dedicated mentor, showing the way. His demeanor, dedication and skills as an organizer while crisscrossing San Diego and southern Orange counties with public meetings were integral in having SONGS finally shut forever. Since the CCC permit to bury the radioactive waste was issued in October 2016, Lutz, has resumed his organizing and spoken at many town hall style meetings, alerting the public. However…
The protesters’ quick thinking would seemingly give Aguirre and Lutz fifteen minutes each to speak on their behalf. But on hearing this, the CCC quickly regrouped again over the protesters’ new tactic, informing all in attendance that – now – the CCC had instead decided to make it thirty minutes in total for all in attendance and all issues of public interest, including the separate issue of SONGS violations by the CCC itself. Therefore, with one minute to go before speaking, Lutz and Aguire and the concerned locals were thus told, “nice try”, as CCC Chairwoman, Dayna Bochco, informed them they would be limited to a paltry four minutes each.
Then the CCC panel, in their usual display of arrogance and public neglect, went back to sleep.
San Diego sheriffs began inching closer as the clock for Aguirre’s time – and the public’s – wound down to zero. His highlighted litany of public betrayal by the CCC reverberated from the hardwood-paneled walls of the chamber. The breadth of the utter ignorance by the CCC members of any concern for public safety was difficult to hear. Factually, as presented in today’s combined minuscule eight-minute allotment for public speech, this full body of the CCC is also guilty of a greater crime: Prostitution of Conscience.
Aguirre, snatching up his notes, moved from the podium and away from the obviously bemused sheriffs standing to either side.
Time had expired.