State and federal investigators are looking into whether critical decisions of the California Public Utilities Commission were made in secret by Michael Peevey, retired president of the regulatory body.
Now, a group known as Protect Our Communities is making a persuasive case that the same kind of mischief is going on under Michael Picker, Peevey's successor.
On March 6, an administrative law judge, after exhaustive study, ruled that a gas-fired plant in Carlsbad, desired by San Diego Gas & Electric, is not needed. For environmental reasons, such plants are undesirable. But on April 6, Picker issued an alternative decision that would approve the plant and only modestly reduce the power it would produce.
Yesterday (April 27), Protect Our Communities denounced Picker's proposed alternative decision. The organization detects a whiff of the utilities commission's long-standing malodorous tactics, which observers hoped would blow away with Peevey's departure.
"The likely outcome" of this alternative decision "had been determined before San Diego Gas & Electric's application was filed," says Protect Our Communities. The configuration of the plant suggested by Picker "was communicated via an ex parte contact with commission president Picker's advisor, Nicolas Chaset, but not to other parties." Needless to say, this violates the commission's rules.
Significant portions of Picker's decision were provided to Chaset by a New Jersey-based partner of SDG&E during a March 13 ex parte meeting. This clandestine meeting "trumped the record of the case," and the administrative law judge's recommendation that the Carlsbad plant was not needed, despite the closing of San Onofre and the scheduled closing of the Carlsbad Encina plant in 2018.