The California Public Utilities Commission is examining proposals to pull the plug on the controversial Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor safety committee and to eliminate operator influence over appointees. Plant owner Pacific Gas & Electric proposed disbanding the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee in its 2003 general rate case. The committee, formed in 1988 under the CPUC, has served as a focal point for addressing and advocating for community concerns about the nuclear facility. In response to resistance from local residents and their call to remove PG&E?s influence over the committee, the company has backed off on pushing to eliminate the panel. ?The committee has exactly the same rights as the public,? said Rochelle Becker, spokesperson for the nuclear watchdog group Mothers for Peace. Yet, she said, the committee has ignored numerous issues that concern the community, including placement of a high-level radioactive waste facility on-site. The panel also could play an advocacy role for safety enhancements at the facility before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Becker added. Interest in the committee?s work waned during the 1990s, according to a spokesperson for the committee, but community participation has enjoyed a minor revival in the wake of 9\/11 and PG&E?s bankruptcy. ?The bottom line is that the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee fulfills its function,? said Jeff Lewis, PG&E spokesperson. Mothers for Peace has petitioned the commission to reinvigorate the safety panel by eliminating the company?s role in appointing its members. Under its existing charter, PG&E, the CPUC, and a University of California dean develop a list of candidates to serve on the committee. The governor, the state attorney general, and the chair of the California Energy Commission?each of whom can make one appointment?choose from the list to appoint panel members to three-year staggered terms. The problem, according to Mothers for Peace, is that PG&E has dominated development of the candidate list. As an alternative to the joint nomination process, the group is asking the CPUC to nominate qualified candidates after an open recruitment process. The envisioned alternative would include public input on the potential candidates. The group also is seeking appointment of a qualified local resident as a fourth member of the committee. The current three members reside out of state. ?The Mothers for Peace have not made a showing to support their changes,? said Lewis. Yet the group?s proposal to the commission has garnered some influential support. ?The approach suggested by the petition avoids any perceived or potential conflicts of interest,? wrote energy commission attorney Jennifer Tachera in comments supporting Mothers for Peace before the CPUC. ?Removing PG&E from the direct nomination process would enhance the credibility of the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee,? added Laura Tudisco, Office of Ratepayer Advocates attorney. Mothers for Peace also wants the CPUC to require the committee to move its offices to San Luis Obispo, near the reactor complex, and to videotape committee meetings for broadcast on public-access television. PG&E is amenable to the two suggestions but is holding firm that the committee appointment process should not be changed.