PGE Opponent Airs bitter charges in Bodega conflict
By Tom Arden
Mrs. Jean Kortum of San Francisco charged at a legislative hearing there was a “breakdown in government.” If the dispute over the location of an atomic plant at Bodega Head, Sonoma County. It was brought about, she said, because the Pacific Gas and Electric Company “is big, it is selfish; it is used to having its own way; in the larger sense, it is unregulated.” Mrs. Kortum’s bitter attack came Friday at a hearing by the assembly rules committee on whether the legislature should enact laws to cover the development of nuclear power plants in California. Mrs. Kortum and her husband, Karl, a San Francisco museum director took part in the fight which eventually led to the PGE withdrawal of its application to the atomic energy commission to construct the Bodega atomic plant.
“It’s necessary to recognize the meaning of the decision so that episodes like this don’t happen again.” Mrs. Kortum stated. “This struggle - people vs. the utility - came about for two reasons: 1. The arrogance of Pacific Gas and Electric Company is just walking in and taking over a size remarked for a state park and 2. A breakdown in our established method of review by government. Both of these areas are of concern to this committee and to the State of California. Mrs. Kortum said the first breakdown in government was when the board of supervisors of Sonoma County handed PGE’s use permit without even knowing what was going to be built on Bodega Head. She said there was another breakdown when the state public utilities commission checked the PGE plans, with only the most cursory inspection and that of an economic nature only. And “she charged the state default entirely on the question of safety” at Bodega located over the San Andreas earthquake fault.
Mrs. Kortum said there was a “uniform gutlessness on the part of elected officials” in the Bodega controversy. “It’s plain,” she said, “that these officials are afraid of what has been called Northern California’s ‘other government.’ “Such undue caution was demonstrated by the attorney general of the state (Stanley Mosk, now a state supreme court justice) who for two years failed to answer a single letter on Bodega, including impassioned pleas for help at the time of the Sonoma rezoning agricultural to obviate the need for a public hearing. “One more politician said to me: ‘This is an awfully complex thing. I don’t want to get into it.’ I suspect that this was the attorney general’s reaction.
On, Off Record
"One assemblyman put himself on record in a letter to a constituent by saying ‘I will continue my opposition so the Bodega plant. But he had what he called a ‘talk with a PGE friend of mine.’ He wouldn’t even talk to us from his office but over the noise of his children at home he told us that his PGE friend had said ‘It was all right at Bodega.’ And the assemblyman’s opposition vanished thereupon. “A remark was made twice by two PGE lobbyists at a state central committee meeting that ‘there’s not going to be any Bodega resolution coming out of this meeting.’ And there wasn’t. “What the PGE lobbyists meant by ‘this meeting’ was that previously another Democratic organization, the California Democratic Council had passed several anti Bodega reactor resolutions.”
Assemblyman Jerome R Waldie (D) of Contra Costa County, who took part in the hearing, told Mrs. Kortum her allegations about the Democratic meeting were not true. Waldie said he had been chairman of the resolutions committee and an inadequate case had been presented for favorable action on a Bodega opposition resolution. Waldie and other committee members clashed with Mrs. Kortum again when she charged the assembly rules committee “made it possible for many citizens to suspect the worst of our legislation process” when the committee failed to contact the California Association To Preserve Bodega Head and Harbor when appeals were made for a legislative hearing.
The name of Assemblyman Tom Walte (D) of Los Angeles County was interjected into the discussion. Mrs. Kortum identified Walte as the assemblyman who had appeared publicly as a spokesman for PGE and said the rule committee had depended on his “research” in connection with the controversy. “To fail to communicate with both sides in an issue is not adequate research.” She said, “And for all 14 of you a year ago to fail to communicate with your coast for six long months in not good public relations. And as one member of this committee did, to write that your mind is already made up - to write that he had gone to Bodega Head and that ‘I fail to understand the fear expressed by presence of an earthquake fault which may quite reasonably have completely expended itself and also that any questionable opposition to the site that may have developed is purely politically based hysteria is nothing but a mockery of representative government. Assemblyman Godon Colegne (R) of Riverside County said he was “disturbed” by Mrs. Kortum’s implication that he had replied on Assemblyman Waite. He said Waite had not influenced him.
Mrs. Kortum told the committee the early citizenship opposition to the PGE plans the committee the early citizenship opposition to the PGE plains was almost like organizing a of the resistance in occupied wartime Europe. “And all those with jobs that could be threatened, were threatened,” she stated. “My husband was called to task by members of his museum board of directors in San Francisco. One of the directors wrote - with a carbon copy to PGE - that ‘Kortum in opposing the Bodega project is an obstacle to the consummation of human needs.’ Another director suggested that my husband ‘get on the right side, Kortum’ “But, fortunately, there were enough of Karl’s directors who thought he was on the right side and who furthermore thought that he could say anything he wanted to on his own time, so that PGE was never able to muzzle Karl, or through him, me!” Mrs. Kortum charged PGE also with a campaign of “labeling us.” “We were at various times supposed to be fronts for the coal industry or the oil interests or just beatniks. And, saddest of all for the reputation of a large utility, PGE implied that we were Communists.”
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