San Diego U-T Editorial: Gov. Brown And The PUC: What, Me Worry?
by The Editorial Board, San Diego Union-Tribune
In October 2014, criticism of California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey had grown so toxic that he announced he would not seek another term running the state agency. Emails had been released showing Peevey had an extraordinarily close relationship with Pacific Gas & Electric executives that may have led the PUC to pull its punches in responding to a 2010 explosion caused by poorly maintained PG&E pipelines that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, a San Francisco suburb. The emails also showed Peevey pressing for costly favors from the giant Northern California utility.
The San Bruno disaster led to criminal charges against PG&E and to a huge internal shake-up at the utility. But when it came to the PUC, Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t bring in an experienced outsider as president to take on a shady internal culture. Instead, he named PUC board member Michael Picker – Brown’s former energy adviser and a longtime member of the state’s chummy utility-energy establishment – as the new president.
That was the governor thumbing his nose at the conventional wisdom that something had gone seriously awry at the state’s utilities regulator. Last Friday, Brown gave an encore gesture, vetoing six measures approved by the Legislature to reduce back-channel dealings between utility executives and regulators, create a PUC inspector general, make it easier to get public records and more. The governor said the measures had some good ideas, but that they were cumulatively “unworkable” because of “various technical and conflicting issues.”
Related: San Jose Mercury News editorial: Brown’s Veto Damages PUC Reform Effort