Legislature Must Rein In CPUC President

What’s under President Peevey’s tree?

TURN today urged the Legislature to rein in CPUC President Michael Peevey, whose latest pet project will cost ratepayers $150 million. President Peevey has spearheaded a proposal from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for a cooperative research institute with PG&E, Edison and SDG&E, and was directly involved in the development of an application for CPUC approval of the scheme. Mr. Peevey also appointed himself to oversee consideration of the projects’ merits and costs, which would be passed on to customers.

TURN submitted evidence to the CPUC, obtained through public records, that President Peevey played a central role in soliciting the proposal, and guiding it through the Commission. E-mails and phone records describe over a year of pre-filing meetings and contacts between President Peevey’s office and officials from the utilities, and LLNL, plus dinner at Jardiniere, an upscale San Francisco restaurant. But President Peevey himself ruled on TURN’s motion for his disqualification, denying it without comment.

TURN and other consumer advocates had urged outright rejection of the proposal. “It is potentially a waste of consumers’ money to commit up to $150 million on the mere hope that something of value will result,” said TURN General Counsel Bob Finkelstein. “If there’s a need for a new, customer-funded program, the Legislature should be involved,” Finkelstein added. “Having President Peevey choose the only candidate, then approve his own choice, makes it look like he is using the power of his office to finance a pet project.”

TURN executive director Mark Toney said TURN supports legislation, proposed by State Senator Jerry Hill, to require an independent review of the merits of research and development projects that are customer-funded. “Rather than provide a rigorous review, the CPUC is rubber-stamping a ratepayer rip-off of President Peevey’s own invention. The Legislature must step in to demand better.”