Tag Archives: San Bruno Explosion

State To Probe Peevey Party Proceeds

by Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune

CPUC headquarters

The soiree honored former California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey, and funds were raised in the name of his successor, Michael Picker. The $250-a-plate event was held at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco as consumer activists protested outside. Read More ›

Regulator Went To Power Event In Napa

by Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune

One percenters enjoy fine wine.

“To my knowledge, the Western Power Trading Forum is one big opportunity to have an illegal ex parte with any commissioner that the group can convince to come and talk to them,” said former commission President Loretta Lynch, now an attorney in private practice. “In some of the most luxurious settings, groups like WPTF wine and dine commissioners while engaging in private, backroom conversations concerning issues directly in front of the PUC. … All Californians should question whether PUC proceedings are appropriately decided, and we should all ask our legislators and the governor to stop this corrupting practice.” Read More ›

Former Top CPUC Director “Disgusted” By Behavior Of Leadership

by Tony Kovaleski, Liz Wagner and Mark Villarreal, NBC Bay Area

A former high ranking member of the California Public Utilities Commission spoke out for the first time since retiring from the agency last fall. In an exclusive interview with the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit, he called the actions of some of the CPUC’s former leaders “disgusting.” For more than a decade Richard Clark held one of the agency’s most critical positions as Director of Consumer Protection in the Safety Division. He said his decisions to draw an ethical line with Pacific Gas & Electric Company contradicted a culture of improper access and influence. Read More ›

Appeals Court OKs Record Penalty Against PG&E

by Vanessa Blum, The Recorder

PG&E pipeline ignites an explosion in San Bruno 9/10/2010.

A California appeals court on Tuesday upheld a $14.35 million fine levied against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. by the California Public Utilities Commission for providing false information to the commission in the wake of the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion. … “Although the amount is large, so is the real and potential harm caused by PG&E’s inaction,” Justice James Richman wrote in a decision joined by J. Anthony Kline and Marla Miller. “PG&E does not argue that it lacks the ability to pay the fine.” The company said in a statement Tuesday evening that it does not plan to appeal the court’s ruling. Read More ›

Grand Jury Probes PG&E’s Relationship With State Regulators

by Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle

The latest grand jury investigation was opened after last year’s disclosure of e-mails between PG&E and the state utilities commission, which prompted probes by both state and federal prosecutors. Some of the e-mails showed a PG&E executive lobbying commissioners and their staffs for a preferred judge to oversee a $1.3 billion rate case. Others indicated that PG&E thought then-commission President Michael Peevey was dangling favorable state treatment in exchange for the utility’s backing for his pet fundraising and political causes. Read More ›

Utilities Agency Reforms Still Pending

by Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union-Tribune

More than eight months later, no employee discipline beyond [chief of staff Carol Brown’s resignation] has been made publicly known, and some of those involved in questionable communications have been promoted. New commission president Michael Picker, a former aide to Gov. Jerry Brown whose nomination is pending Senate approval, has engaged in backchannel communications himself, as reported by U-T San Diego in March. … The commission is still evaluating the 65,000 or so PG&E emails to figure out which employees may have violated rules against inappropriate communications. Any discipline is likely to be kept confidential, [an agency spokeswoman] said. Read More ›

State Regulator Says PG&E May Be Too Big To Operate Safely

by Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle

PG&E pipeline ignites an explosion in San Bruno 9/10/2010.

In levying the $1.6 billion penalty for the San Bruno explosion, commissioners cited PG&E’s shoddy records, reckless practices and numerous safety violations leading up to the disaster. The 30-inch pipeline exploded when an incomplete seam weld that PG&E didn’t even know existed ruptured. Company records showed that the 1950s-era pipe had no seams, so PG&E never conducted the type of inspection that could have caught a flawed weld. Regulators found that PG&E had cut pipeline-safety spending during years when it was making record profits … Read More ›

Funds For Safety Went To Utility Execs’ Pay Instead, PUC President Says

by Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times

PG&E pipeline ignites an explosion in San Bruno 9/10/2010.

Money collected from ratepayers and earmarked for pipeline safety was instead spent on executive pay raises by the state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., in the months before a deadly pipeline explosion in 2010, lawmakers were told Wednesday. … After the two-hour hearing, [new Public Utilities Commission President] Michael Picker told The Times that he’s gathering additional documentation that PG&E put off safety and maintenance work to boost its profits and provide top executives with bonuses. Read More ›

San Bruno: PG&E Should Pay $1.6 Billion Penalty As Punishment For Fatal Blast Says Top Regulator

by George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News

PG&E pipeline ignites an explosion in San Bruno 9/10/2010.

A consumer group, The Utility Reform Network, praised the proposal from [California Public Utilities Commission President Michael] Picker, but warned that vigilance is still needed to ensure the PUC doesn’t accommodate PG&E unduly in other decisions. Among those pending matters: a plan to finance PG&E improvements to its natural gas transmission and storage system. That proposal could produce an increase in gas bills of 11.8 percent, or $5.23 a month for the average residential customer. Read More ›

Lawsuit Contests CPUC Lawyer Hiring

by Jeff McDonald, UT-San Diego

Sempra's San Onofre nuclear plant

[Plaintiffs attorney:] “They are misusing public funds by hiring lawyers — very expensive lawyers — to hide public records that relate to the misuse of ratepayer funds.” … According to [CPUC President Michael] Picker, the commission is facing at least three separate criminal investigations — two by the California Attorney General’s office and one by the U.S. Department of Justice. … Investigators are looking into alleged favoritism by [ex-CPUC President Michael] Peevey and others after a deadly 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno and the 2012 failure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Read More ›

CPUC Boss Equated Safety Advocate With Mass Murderer

PG&E pipeline ignites an explosion in San Bruno 9/10/2010.

Days after the 2010 PG&E gas explosion that killed eight, hospitalized many more and leveled 38 San Bruno homes, the Executive Director of the California Public Utilities Commission emailed a vice president at the company, equating pipeline safety advocate Mark Toney with an infamous mass murder. Perhaps … Read More ›

PG&E Wields “Pervasive” Influence At PUC, Now Described As A “Rogue Agency”

by George Avalos and Josh Richman, Contra Costa Times

PG&E pipeline ignites an explosion in San Bruno 9/10/2010.

“It’s almost as if PG&E was a Rasputin, or a Svengali, with the magic power to get the PUC to do what PG&E wanted,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill, whose San Mateo County district includes San Bruno [where a natural gas blast in September 2010 killed eight people and destroyed a neighborhood]. … The PUC remains under intense scrutiny because skeptics believe Peevey created and then nurtured a culture of cozy relations with San Francisco-based PG&E and other utility giants in California. Read More ›

Agents Search Michael Peevey’s Home In PG&E Judge-Shopping Case

by Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle

CPUC headquarters

The search warrant covering [former California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey and former PG&E executive Brian Cherry’s] homes said investigators were looking for evidence of improper “ex parte communications, judge-shopping, bribery, obstruction of justice or due administration of laws, favors or preferential treatment” related to matters coming before the utilities commission from December 2009 on. Read More ›

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