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Things are happening fast and furious over the back-channel communications between Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and officials of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) over the amount PG&E should be assessed for its role in the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a neighborhood.

PG&E has announced that federal prosecutors are investigating eight years' worth of emails in which the utility was seeking — and got — pro-utility administrative law judges in the deliberations. The company has already admitted violating CPUC rules by secretly exchanging emails.

The City of San Bruno is now stating that Mike Florio, a commissioner handling the case, should recuse himself from the PG&E case because of his friendly emails to PG&E. Commission president Michael Peevey has already recused himself. Gov. Jerry Brown is returning $9000 in political contributions that he received from PG&E executives.

Mia Severson of San Diego law firm Aguirre & Severson has requested under the California Public Records Act that the CPUC deliver all documents showing communications between Peevey or his staff and anyone representing Southern California Edison from 2005 to the present.

Aguirre and Severson are probing the attempt to get ratepayers to pick up much of the tab for the closing of the San Onofre nuclear operation, which, they say, was a management mistake, and ratepayers should not have to pay for it. Aguirre is calling for a criminal grand jury investigation of the CPUC over its roles in both the San Bruno disaster and the San Onofre fiasco.

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Comments

Visduh Oct. 7, 2014 @ 8:36 p.m.

A criminal investigation is long overdue. As to whether one will actually produce any indictments is a good question, but the fact that these antics have finally gotten the feds off their collective duffs should be worrying a whole bunch of folks.

A few years back, the federal courts used the term "chilling effect" to describe some actions that inhibited free speech and expression. I'd say it's time to dust off that term and use it to describe how this investigation will inhibit further insider-dealing, ignoring staff recommendations, and blatantly anti-consumer rulings. We can expect to see the rulings of the commission to change noticeably in the coming weeks and months.

It looks as if both Edison and PG&E have overreached, and are likely to find the CPUC much less friendly soon.

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Don Bauder Oct. 8, 2014 @ 6:21 a.m.

Visduh: I agree. A criminal investigation is long overdue. Since the days before deregulation decades ago, we have known that the regulated control the regulators. The answer is not deregulation, as has been proven time and again. The answer is strong, honest regulation. Criminal sanctions could make that point, and one excellent example is the current CPUC. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Oct. 8, 2014 @ 3:33 a.m.

Don, the question now is whether Gov. Brown will take the lead on this issue to save the ratepayers from the totally outrageous consequences of criminal negligence and larceny by utility executives at last, before the election?

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Don Bauder Oct. 8, 2014 @ 6:23 a.m.

Anon92107: See my column this week, which should be showing up online this morning (Wednesday). Best, Don Bauder

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eastlaker Oct. 8, 2014 @ 7:37 a.m.

I hope the city of San Bruno sticks to its guns. I hope we get some strong work in this area, and force all utilities in CA to abide by the law. I also hope that the schedule for fixing all old pipelines will take into consideration the human cost of not fixing the pipelines.

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Don Bauder Oct. 8, 2014 @ 8:55 a.m.

eastlaker: You are so right. It certainly appears that when the CPUC permitted PG&E to utilize aging pipelines, the agency was more concerned about utility profits than human safety. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill Oct. 9, 2014 @ 3:16 p.m.

This is a great example of why emails at public agencies should never be destroyed. You'd think these guys would be slick enough to know better than to send incriminating information in an email but sooner or later they slip up.

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Don Bauder Oct. 9, 2014 @ 7:21 p.m.

ImJustABill: I agree 100 percent. You would think the executives of PG&E and the officials of CPUC would be more intelligent about sending such emails. I guess the explanation is hubris. But it might be hubris combined with stupidity. Best, Don Bauder

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