Michael Picker and Michael Peevey
A bill that seeks to require state oversight on utility executive bonuses is working its way through the Sacramento legislature.
Assembly Bill 1266, introduced by local assemblywoman and onetime labor leader Lorena Gonzalez, would require California Public Utilities Commission hearings at which power companies would have to justify bonus pay for top brass. The provision would be in effect following any documented state or federal safety violation that results in a fine of $5 million or more billed to ratepayers.
The bill comes in the wake of a disastrous 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno and the 2013 failure of steam generators at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station — the incidents are expected to cost ratepayers of Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric billions in the coming years.
"As ratepayers have been hit with astronomical costs following major public utility failures, the least we can do is make sure that the public has a say before executives are rewarded afterwards," Gonzalez says in an April 27 release.
Even if successful, doubts exist regarding the’ public utilities commission’s trustworthiness as a public guardian. Its former president, Michael Peevey, who himself was a utility executive before assuming the public post, is under state and federal investigation for allegedly taking illegal actions to aid utilities. New commissioner Michael Picker has also been called into question.
Gonzalez's bill, after passing through the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee on a 10-5 vote on Monday, April 27, is headed for another hearing in the Committee on Appropriations.