Legislators Pressure CPUC Officials Over PG&E E-Mails

by Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle

CPUC headquarters

CPUC headquarters in San Francisco

State legislators grilled the new president of the California Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday about what one senator called an erosion of confidence in the agency over whether its officials have cooperated too closely with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the other utilities they regulate.
Commission President Michael Picker told the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee that the agency is changing and is becoming more transparent to earn back the public’s trust. But he conceded that much damage had been done to the commission’s reputation, and even raised the prospect that the agency or its employees could face criminal charges.
Committee Chairman Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Logan Heights (San Diego County), told Picker that some of the 65,000 e-mails between commission officials and PG&E that were recently released as part of a court case show that the regulatory process appears “extremely skewed” toward the utility.
The e-mails have shown utilities commission officials working to name an administrative law judge whom PG&E preferred to a rate-setting case, and a PG&E executive trying to leverage the former commission president’s interest in a coal-gasification project into favorable treatment for the firm.
‘Behind the scenes’
“People now have a valid concern,” Hueso said. “What is going on behind the scenes here? Are deals being struck behind the scenes?”

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