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New faces at CPUC. But new broom unlikely

Political PR pro Picker to replace Peevey

Governor Jerry Brown today (December 23) named two new commissioners to the scandal-ridden California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Long-time Sacramento public relations pro Michael Picker, who was named a commissioner in January of this year, will take over the presidency, now held by Michael Peevey, who is embroiled in controversy over the regulator's attempt to get a low-ball penalty for Pacific Gas & Electric, whose negligence caused the 2010 San Bruno explosion. A number of released emails have shown that Peevey, commissioner Mike Florio, and Peevey's one-time assistant worked sub rosa to help PG&E, which has fired executives who played footsie with CPUC officials and then sent the damning messages by email.

Before joining the commission, Picker was an advisor on renewable energy in the governor's office for five years. He was also a principal at public relations and campaign consulting firms in Sacramento. "He was Brown's right hand man," says San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre, who has battled the CPUC on two major issues. "This is more of the same: he is a big political fundraiser and big labor guy." Aguirre pointed out that Picker voted for the so-called compromise in which ratepayers will be billed $3.7 billion for the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant, when, he believes, the shareholders should pick up the entire tab, because the accident was a result of mismanagement. "Picker voted for a plan that unfairly burdened ratepayers on San Onofre," says Aguirre, who believes Picker will be a clone of Peevey.

"Brown has decided to make no fundamental changes — sticking with [Commissioner] Mike Florio, who should have resigned. It becomes clearer that the CPUC is a reflection of the governor and not an agency that protects the welfare of the ratepayers," says Aguirre. Picker's appointment requires state senate confirmation.

The other appointment as commissioner is Liane Randolph. She has served in several positions at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2011, serving as deputy secretary and general counsel. The Sierra Club put out a statement lauding Randolph: "The Sierra Club supports this nomination and is hopeful that her appointment will help bring forward the reforms necessary to cleaning up the commission." The nomination "comes on the heels of recently-released emails highlighting the wholly inappropriate relationship between the agency and the utilities it is charged with regulating. Emails released this week show...Peevey colluding with PG&E to build multiple dirty and outrageously expensive power plants."

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Governor Jerry Brown today (December 23) named two new commissioners to the scandal-ridden California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Long-time Sacramento public relations pro Michael Picker, who was named a commissioner in January of this year, will take over the presidency, now held by Michael Peevey, who is embroiled in controversy over the regulator's attempt to get a low-ball penalty for Pacific Gas & Electric, whose negligence caused the 2010 San Bruno explosion. A number of released emails have shown that Peevey, commissioner Mike Florio, and Peevey's one-time assistant worked sub rosa to help PG&E, which has fired executives who played footsie with CPUC officials and then sent the damning messages by email.

Before joining the commission, Picker was an advisor on renewable energy in the governor's office for five years. He was also a principal at public relations and campaign consulting firms in Sacramento. "He was Brown's right hand man," says San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre, who has battled the CPUC on two major issues. "This is more of the same: he is a big political fundraiser and big labor guy." Aguirre pointed out that Picker voted for the so-called compromise in which ratepayers will be billed $3.7 billion for the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant, when, he believes, the shareholders should pick up the entire tab, because the accident was a result of mismanagement. "Picker voted for a plan that unfairly burdened ratepayers on San Onofre," says Aguirre, who believes Picker will be a clone of Peevey.

"Brown has decided to make no fundamental changes — sticking with [Commissioner] Mike Florio, who should have resigned. It becomes clearer that the CPUC is a reflection of the governor and not an agency that protects the welfare of the ratepayers," says Aguirre. Picker's appointment requires state senate confirmation.

The other appointment as commissioner is Liane Randolph. She has served in several positions at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2011, serving as deputy secretary and general counsel. The Sierra Club put out a statement lauding Randolph: "The Sierra Club supports this nomination and is hopeful that her appointment will help bring forward the reforms necessary to cleaning up the commission." The nomination "comes on the heels of recently-released emails highlighting the wholly inappropriate relationship between the agency and the utilities it is charged with regulating. Emails released this week show...Peevey colluding with PG&E to build multiple dirty and outrageously expensive power plants."

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Comments
35

So if this is the result of a Democrat in charge how much worst off would we be with a Republican Governor? Where are the people to turn to for representation?

Don why don't you run? I'd vote for you and send a couple of bucks too.

Dec. 23, 2014

MichaelValentine: Are you kidding? Journalists can't run anything, including publications and radio and TV stations. Even worse, public relations practitioners can seldom if ever perform administrative tasks. PR people -- and I was once one -- by the very nature of their jobs can't be expected to be reformers.

Picker inherits an enormous scandal, and a couple more, related to Southern California, will fall in his lap, perhaps soon. As a PR man, he will try to smooth things over. He will not turn the rascals out. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

I wouldn't exactly call Pickering a new face at the PUC since he's been there almost a year. Likely just more of the same except now he has more authority.

Dec. 23, 2014

danfogel: Picker is a new face in the top job, although he has been there almost a year. Randolph is a new face, and a promising one. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

A promising new face. Where have I heard that one before. While she may not have worked for a utility directly, Randolph was a partner at Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman representing big companies like At&T and Chevron, in political law advising them in commercial, regulatory and litigation matters. How better to get around the rules than by having someone who used to advise on that very subject. She's on a short leash as far as I'm concerned, because after all, she's up against four others who have already demonstrated where their loyalties lie. How long until she succumbs to the dark side, just as the other promising new faces before her. She was once quoted as saying "People who are skirting the rules are not fair to the people that are following those rules." Let's see How long she remembers that...or IF she remembers that.

Dec. 23, 2014

danfogel: Good points. Yes, she worked for law firms, and that is a black mark, but not a reason to condemn her before she arrives. Some of Brown's other appointments looked good on paper but haven't performed in ratepayers' interests. Florio worked for TURN, a self-professed reform organization, but he has turned out to be almost as big a utility lackey as Peevey. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Don Bauder, Can you name even one single appointee to the PUC made by Brown that has performed in ratepayers' interests?

Dec. 24, 2014

danfogel: Good question. I don't know that any of the Brown appointments worked in the ratepayers' interest, although some should be given time to prove themselves. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Between this bad news about Gov. Jerry Brown's tepid appointments to the troubled CPUC and the Los Angeles Times' recent two-part dissection of the special sentencing deal cut with the complicity of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on behalf of Esteban Nunez, the incarcerated murderous punk son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, it could shake your faith in the integrity of politicians, even former seminarians.

Dec. 23, 2014

monaghan: You mean you have ever had faith in politicians? You are much smarter than that. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 23, 2014

All members of the CPUC and all the staff should be fired. Let the people of California elect CPUC members and ban anyone who worked for or with a utility or worked in the State Capitol or any former or current elected official. I know one can only wish.

Dec. 24, 2014

AlexClarke: I definitely agree that former presidents of utilities should be automatically disqualified. Look at Peevey. He had been president of Southern California Edison and its parent. That should have been enough to thumb him down. But it was one reason he was named initially by Gray Davis. Look how much ratepayers would have saved if he had not headed the CPUC. Also, lawyers for utilities -- whether inside or with utilities' law firms -- should not be considered.

The CPUC has a revolving door, just as the SEC has. The SEC is run by Wall Street just as the CPUC is run by the publicly-held utilities. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Aalexclarke, Why don't you get started on a ballot initiative changing the state constitution to allow that very thing. I'm sure anyone who actually pays attention to the goings on at the PUC would be in favor of it.

Dec. 24, 2014

danfogel: Despite the extremely high rates of the California publicly-held, for-profit utilities, I am not sure that enough people would show the interest to get the ouster movement going. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Don Bauder that was my exact point. The CPUC is a constitutional entity. Any changes as to the nature of it's make up would have to be done via a constitutional amendment. Many people have commented that it needs to be done differently, yet none of them seem to want to actually get involved in the process. They piss and moan about the way things are done and say things need to change, but that's it.

Dec. 24, 2014

danfogel: Where did all the hell-raisers go? The police brutally put down the Occupy movement (at the instructions of Washington DC), and then the protesters were fearful and apathetic. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

Another Kent State might be likely, but more likely, people will just "disappear."

A retired policeman told me that the quality of the average policeman has declined precipitously in the last decade or so . . . He never fired his weapon, but worked in a crime-ridden neighborhood and arrested criminals and nutcases with nothing more than his nightstick. Now, the boys in blue just love to waste people.

Read/see "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "Lonely Are the Brave." Maybe "Robin Hood" too . . .

And, "follow the money."

And were have all the flowers gone . . . ?

Dec. 26, 2014

Twister: Kent State was indeed a watershed in Vietnam protests. I think it helped sway public opinion in favor of the protesters. I lived not far from Kent State when the disaster occurred. At the time, we all knew it would be an historical event. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 27, 2014

I think the hit Neal Young song (not sure of the title) with the chorus "4 dead in O-HIO" may have helped publicize the Kent State incident as well.

Dec. 27, 2014

ImJustABill: That hit song may have helped, definitely, but I can tell you that as soon as it happened, those living in Northeast Ohio knew it would go down in history. Arming National Guard troops with live ammunition in that situation was tragically stupid. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 28, 2014

ImJustABill I'm not sure how much the song helped publicize the tragedy. I was only released as a single, with Find the Cost of Freedom as the b-side. Shortly after it's release, it was banned from AM radio play, which, as I remember things, was what most "adults" listened to . At that time, Tucson's first, and really only, progressive free form rock station, KWFM 92, had gone on the air just weeks earlier. I was just finishing Jr. high when it happened. I was lucky enough to have just got a new Pioneer stereo receiver, so I was able to listen to FM. What most of my friends did was buy the single and find a friend with an 8-track recorder and record it onto 8-track and then if you were old enough to have a car you could listen while you drive.

Dec. 29, 2014

danfogel: That is a poignant story that I have never heard before. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 29, 2014

It was banned do to the reference to NIxon, which Young left in the lyrics even though Nixon had nothing to do with the NG being there. The mayor of Kent requested the presence of the NG and the Governor agreed and sent in the Ohio Army National Guard.

Dec. 30, 2014

danfogel: There was a song in the Vietnam era that was banned. It had the words, "But the big fool wants to go on," or something like that. The censors thought it was a veiled reference to Kissinger or Nixon or both. Maybe it was Johnson the protesters were allegedly referencing -- I have forgotten. Were the Smothers brothers the ones who put the song on?

Then there was an entertainer with some kind of afternoon TV show. He was a star. But during the second Iraq War, he interviewed a war opponent on his show. As I recall, he lost the show. A number of courageous senators had voted against the war, but no matter: a host of a TV show couldn't have a war opponent on air. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 31, 2014

don bauder I believe that the song you are referring to is Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, by Pete Seeger. He had performed it on the Smothers Bros Show, but CBS cut it because Seeger wouldn't cut one of the verses which at the time was a reference to LBJ and his policies on the Vietnam war. The only major personality that I can think of who lost a show under the circumstances you describe id Phil Donahue. Anyway, I have some guests arriving shortly so Happy New Year, Good night, good night everybody Everybody everywhere Good night.

Dec. 31, 2014

Don: Keep shining a light on the corrupt CPUC.

Dec. 24, 2014

AlexClarke: Thank goodness, the CPUC and the utilities that control it make the task much easier. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

new faces with the same old connections?

Dec. 24, 2014

Murphyjunkk: I am afraid so. I do hold out hope for Randolph. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 24, 2014

"Don Bauder that was my exact point. The CPUC is a constitutional entity. Any changes as to the nature of it's make up would have to be done via a constitutional amendment. Many people have commented that it needs to be done differently, yet none of them seem to want to actually get involved in the process. They piss and moan about the way things are done and say things need to change, but that's it."

And, regarding ballot initiatives: "Despite the extremely high rates of the California publicly-held, for-profit utilities, I am not sure that enough people would show the interest to get the ouster movement going."

Optimism is the only option, Don. One reason scientists and other academics have so little effect on our collective destiny is that they give one paper, publish once in some obscure journal, and than lament that that the ignorant public doesn't care. Think about how toothpaste is sold. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

"Agitate, agitate, agitate!" --The dying words of Frederick Douglass

Circulate, circulate, circulate! Now that the Internet makes it easy, there's no excuse for not spreading the word. It's happening, but mostly for raves and coordinated attacks. Look to the current generation. And join them.

Dec. 26, 2014

Twister: Agreed. The Internet should be the medium by which people express their justified grievances. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 27, 2014

Just for info, I left some posts relevant to this on the "Peevvy Lovefest" piece of Dec. 22.

How rapidly posting wanes!

Dec. 26, 2014

Twister: I didn't see your posts. I don't know what the problem is, if there is a problem. Best, Don Bader

Dec. 27, 2014

So Picker is an advocate for green energy. Is that green as in green for the environment or green as in loads of green money for the utilities?

Dec. 27, 2014

ImJustABill: I think Picker will like the color green in the same way Peevey did: green money before green energy. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 27, 2014

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