Public’s voice silenced at Edison Community Engagement Panel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Numerous nuclear safety advocates say Pam Patterson was the only person on the 18-member panel willing to ask tough questions about public safety

December 14, Thursday, 2107 —

Yesterday, in a three-two vote, the San Juan Capistrano City Council removed Councilmember Pam Patterson, Esq. from Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Community Engagement Panel (CEP).

According to opponents of Edison’s plans to bury lethal nuclear waste at San Onofre State Beach, the removal of Patterson could not have come at a worse time.

Edison is just days away from beginning the process of burying 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive waste in giant, thin-walled steel containers just 108 feet from the beach, and three feet above a corrosive salt water table. According to geologists, the waste is in the middle of a tsunami inundation zone situated near an earthquake fault as deep and as dangerous to the facility as the San Andreas.

The geological and corrosion risks at the site make the probability of a nuclear release at San Onofre “inevitable,” says Robert Pope, an Orange County geologist. Pope made the statement in a live interview on KUSI News last year.

The CEP is a ratepayer-funded community education panel which meets quarterly to discuss public safety issues involving the decommissioning of SONGS. Critics have been skeptical of the CEP’s efforts to engage the community as required under Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines, claiming it is largely a public relations effort by Edison to pacify Southern California’s residents and political leaders into believing that storing nuclear waste three feet above the saltwater table in half-inch steel cans is safe.

As a member of the CEP, Patterson has been a vocal, and sometimes confrontational critic of Edison. According to Patterson, Edison uses the forum in a manner that suppresses the views of opposing scientists and informed citizens. “Misleading presentations occur at every meeting,” says Patterson.

Michelle Anderson, a Coto de Caza resident and Laguna Beach radio host, has been attending CEP meetings for the past year. Anderson stated that she has never seen anyone represent the community as much as Councilmember Patterson, “who is a voice of reason and speaks for the community and safety first.”

In a letter of support, Orange County resident and scientist, Dr. Roger Johnson wrote “Having attended 17 of the 19 [CEP] meetings, it quickly became clear that the CEP was designed to be a public relations forum to disguise Edison’s desire to dump 2000 tons of uranium and plutonium as quickly and cheaply as possible, and get out of the area before accidents begin …   If your town awards any special awards of merit, Pam Patterson is the one who deserves it.”

Chelsi Sparti, a San Diego resident stated “Pam Patterson is a true representative of the greater Southern California Region in her leadership role on the San Onofre CEP panel.  Her serious and thoughtful questions about the San Onofre Decommissioning plans force those with power and money at Southern California Edison to be held accountable.  This is what democracy requires.”

Gary Headrick, co-founder San Clemente Green, a 5000-member organization opposed to burial of nuclear waste on the beach said this:  “Pam Patterson understands what is at stake here, and she deserves a lot of credit for standing up to a mostly pro-nuclear panel.  Instead she is being criticized for doing what every other public official should be doing.  Judging by the loud applause and public support she gets when speaking truth to power, it is obvious that she is speaking for a large sector of the community, and she deserves whatever time she needs to speak on their behalf.”

“She was the only member of the panel that made the public feel as if we were being represented,” said Charles Langley, the executive director of Public Watchdogs.

“The public’s overwhelming perception is that everyone else on the CEP has somehow had their objectivity compromised. How else could you get groups like the Coastkeeper and the Sierra Club to sign off on this ridiculous plan?” asks Langley.

Before the final vote, Councilwoman Kerry Ferguson stated that she believed Patterson should remain on the Panel; that it was important to have differing views voiced, and that there were a lot of qualified educated people that passionately supported her continuing to serve on the CEP. However, in opposition a strong show of support, Councilmen Derek Reeve, Brian Maryott, and the new Mayor, Sergio Farias voted to have Patterson removed.

“This is an eye-opener for Southern Californians,” says Nina Babiarz, a representative of the public advocacy group, Public Watchdogs, where Patterson is a fellow board member. “Edison’s CEP is now lacking one single member that will ask the tough questions on behalf of the Public. Considering that Edison has secured massive emergency planning exemptions that enabled them to change the SONGS emergency plan, this action should be a wake-up call for the public.”

“The rest of the panel is reluctant to ask questions that would embarrass Edison or reveal possible criminal activity. Patterson was the only CEP member that asked tough questions and truly represented the community by asking key questions about extreme risks to public safety.  No wonder they wanted her gone. ” says Babiarz.

In a letter to her supporters last night, Patterson wrote  “The biggest threat that We, the People face is corrupt government, which is why we have the SONGS situation, and, as you can see from the vote tonight, the corruption is at every level.”

“Without Pam, who is going to be there to confront Edison and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? Asks Nina Babiarz.. “The public has a right to know, and the CEP appears to be dedicated to the proposition that the public should never be made aware of the extreme dangers of this Edison-created beachfront nuclear waste dump.”

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Contact:  For more information, or to arrange interviews, please all Charles Langley at (858) 752-4600

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