Nancy Ryan Given Leadership Role On Utility Panel

Mark Toney tells reporters, “Nancy Ryan is an extremely talented energy professional”

Gov. Jerry Brown made his first staffing choice Friday on the California Public Utilities Commission, a regulatory body that has come under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of last year’s deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

Brown took Nancy Ryan, who had served on the five-member commission since last January, and moved her back to the commission’s staff, where she worked for years. Ryan will now be the staff’s deputy executive director, the job she held before being appointed to the commission.

The move keeps Ryan in a prominent leadership role while giving Brown three open seats to fill on the influential commission, which regulates utilities, telecommunications companies and railroads. Two other people, John Bohn and Dian Grueneich, recently left the panel.

The commission has faced criticism from consumer advocates and some state legislators in the wake of the Sept. 9 explosion of a natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Critics say the commission has grown too close to the companies it regulates, a charge the commissioners deny.

Brown has a chance to reshape the panel, and some of the people rumored to be under consideration for the open seats have been sharply critical of PG&E in the past. Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network watchdog group, praised Ryan on Friday but urged Brown to set a new tone on the commission.

"Nancy Ryan is an extremely talented energy professional, and we’re really pleased to see that Jerry Brown’s keeping her at the commission in a leadership position," Toney said. "We’re also pleased at the possibility of Brown remaking the commission to be more consumer oriented."

Although the commissioners typically serve six-year terms, Ryan was never confirmed by the state Senate, and her appointment expired Thursday.

This article appeared on page D-4 of the San Francisco Chronicle