Rob Nikolewski, San Diego Union Tribune, December 20, 12:30 PM
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San Juan Capistrano city council member Pam Patterson has sometimes clashed with other members of the Community Engagement Panel, which gives the public updates on the decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
But she won’t be asking any more sharp questions from the panel’s dais because last week she was ousted as her city’s representative to the panel by fellow members of the San Juan Capistrano city council.
In a 3-2 vote, the council decided to remove Patterson from the SONGS panel.
“I am definitely outspoken as far as the risk we all face in respect to health and safety as a result of the mismanagement that’s going at the San Onofre power plant,” said Patterson, who has often criticized the plant’s operator, Southern California Edison.
Patterson will be replaced by San Juan Capistrano’s current mayor, Sergio Farias.
“She was there to represent residents of San Juan Capistrano and ask questions on behalf of them, not to be an activist,” Farias said. “If you create this atmosphere of questioning everything I don’t think it leads to what this panel is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be disseminating information.”
The Community Engagement Panel was formed by Edison and has 18 membersrepresenting a range of stakeholders that include local governments, the Sierra Club, a labor union, a Native American group, a member of the American Nuclear Society and a representative of Camp Pendleton, where the SONGS facility is located.
The panel is not a regulatory body and does not have rule-making authority. Members serve on a voluntary basis and do not get paid.
The meetings typically involve a featured speaker, public comment and updates from SCE — usually centering on the 3.55 million pounds of nuclear waste stored at the site and efforts to move the spent fuel to another location.
Patterson said she was not surprised by the vote because there had been earlier attempts by the city council to replace her.
In San Juan Capistrano, the mayor’s position rotates among members of the city council in one-year increments. Farias assumed mayoral duties earlier this month.
Although no longer a member of the Community Engagement Panel, Patterson said she will still attend the quarterly meetings as a member of the public.
“This is a very, very important issue we all face and we can’t be cavalier about it,” she said. “We really need to understand how important it is to everyone.”
Patterson said she is a member of the board of Public Watchdogs, a San Diego-based activist group that been harshly critical of Edison and last month filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing SONGS should not be allowed to store nuclear waste since it no longer produces electricity.
Farias said the Community Engagement Panel is “asking important questions” and said he will be an assertive member.
“I hope to ask tough questions,” he said. “Whether or not it hurts Edison’s feelings, I’m not concerned with how they feel. I’m going to ask tough questions for my constituents.”
Edison’s San Onofre Panel Ejects Voice of Reason – San Diego Reader
Member of San Onofre’s Community Engagement Panel Replaced – San Diego Union Tribune
Video: The Community Enragement Panel – Public Watchdogs
Press Release: Public’s Voice Silenced at Community Engagement Panel – Public Watchdogs