San Mateo County politicians blasted the California Public Utilities Commission this morning as they called upon Attorney General Kamala Harris to open an investigation into the commission’s allegedly unlawful “cozy relationship” with Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and state Sen. Jerry Hill said the CPUC illegally intervened in the penalty case against PG&E for the fatal 2010 San Bruno gas line explosion in order to secure a more favorable ruling for PG&E, as well as engaging in illegal communication regarding rate setting.
“The state’s top cop must take action to protect the public,” Hill said.
The call for action comes in the wake of PG&E firing three employees earlier this week for email conversations with CPUC officials that discussed assigning administrative law judges to rate-setting cases who would be more sympathetic to PG&E’s case.
The CPUC President Michael Peevey’s chief of staff, Carol Brown, resigned for her part in the email exchanges, though CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio, who communicated with PG&E over judge assignment, remains in his post.
In July, the city of San Bruno obtained emails between the CPUC and PG&E through legal action in which CPUC officials advised PG&E on how to handle legal issues and potential fines stemming from the gas pipeline explosion.
“If this isn’t collusion, I don’t know what is,” Mullin said. “The CPUC has been in dereliction of its most essential duty: to protect the public.”
“The emails show a blatant disregard for the law by PUC commissioners and management,” Hill said.
A PG&E spokesperson said the utility took responsibility for the misconduct and expects a fine.
“We took responsibility by self-reporting this violation, we held individuals accountable and we took swift and immediate actions to ensure this conduct will never happen again,” said PG&E spokesman Keith Stephens.
Hill, Mullin and Ruane publicly signed a letter to Harris calling for an investigation and delivered it to her office in the California State Building in San Francisco this morning flanked by news cameras. They expressed a loss of confidence in the CPUC and its president, which they said they had communicated to Gov. Jerry Brown.
“The culture is created at the top, and they’ve lost their way,” Hill said.
Peevey has served as CPUC president since 2002, but his current term expires at the end of this year.
Ruane said an independent monitor would be the only way to restore public trust in the CPUC.
“The situation is critical, and communities throughout the state remain at risk,” Ruane said.
Drew Himmelstein, Bay City News