The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced today, September 15, that it had taken several measures to deal with what it called "inappropriate email exchanges" between the commission and the utilities. Those emails, unearthed in July, showed that the CPUC was biased toward the utilities it is supposed to regulate.
Carol Brown, chief of staff to CPUC president Michael Peevey, agreed to resign. She had sent one of the pro-utility emails. Peevey recused himself from the decision on how much Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) should be assessed for negligence in the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion. Two administrative law judges recommended a $1.4 billion penalty, but staff members had recommended a significantly larger penalty.
PG&E dismissed three executives involved in the email exchange, including Brian Cherry, vice president for regulatory relations. The company admitted that the emails "may have violated CPUC rules prohibiting certain ex parte communications." PG&E promised a probe of 65,000 emails over a five-year period.
PG&E's Cherry had complained to CPUC commissioner Mike Florio that certain administrative law judges had given the company troubles in the past. Florio at one point told Cherry. "I'm horrified!" about the possibility of one judge taking the case. Florio said the commission was considering giving the case to another judge.
The commission's belated and apologetic actions are further proof that the CPUC under Peevey (with Florio's assistance) has been pro-utility and anti-ratepayer.