PUC Emails Appear To Show Former Chief Michael Peevey Overstepping His Role

by Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times

Michael Peevey

Michael Peevey

SACRAMENTO — Thousands of emails newly released by the state Public Utilities Commission present a damaging portrait of former PUC President Michael Peevey as a micromanaging, domineering leader who appears to have overstepped his role.

Peevey involved himself personally in internal decision-making at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. — the state’s largest utility — including its corporate leadership, political public relations strategy, safety policies and rate-setting cases, affecting billions of customer dollars, documents show.

The 65,000 emails offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the commission and are likely to fuel ongoing state and federal investigations.

Peevey and the PUC have been under scrutiny for months amid growing frustration by city officials, lawmakers and activists over their close relationship with the utilities they regulate. Such under-the-radar contacts between Peevey and utility executives also appear to be at the core of an ongoing probe at the PUC by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco and the California attorney general’s office.

Californians depend on an independent PUC to monitor utility safety, set rates, ensure reliability and protect the environment.

“The bottom line is that I am amazed,” said Robert McCullough, an energy industry consultant and a former longtime manager at Portland General Electric in Oregon, who has analyzed thousands of the emails.

“Peevey has passed beyond” improper contacts with PG&E, McCullough said, and took on a “role where he was commenting and recommending promotions at PG&E. In effect, he was acting as a member of senior management” and “had clearly redefined the role of CPUC commissioner into a freewheeling advocate for the firm.”

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