Gov. Brown Appoints Two New Commissioners To CPUC

Policy-makers, politicians and consumers look forward to the new make-up of the Public Utilities Commission.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed two new commissioners to the California Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday.

The regulatory agency welcomed new commissioners Mike Florio and Catherine Sandoval, CPUC spokeswoman Susan Carothers said.

Florio and Sandoval will join current commissioners Timothy Alan Simon and president Michael Peevey in time for the CPUC’s next meeting on Thursday, Carothers said.

"I look forward to collaborating with both new commissioners as we work to strengthen our commitment to consumer protection and safety," Peevey said.

Tuesday’s appointments come on the heels of some very vocal criticism of the agency.

At Jan. 13’s CPUC meeting, state Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said the commission could have prevented the explosion of a pipeline segment on Sept. 9, 2010, that killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes in a San Bruno neighborhood.

Hill asked the commission to do its own inspection of PG&E records, but said, "It’s hard for me to make these requests because I do not have the confidence that this commission will do its job."

"This commission has failed the people of California and residents in my district by your culture of complacency," Hill said.

Hill later said that he welcomed the new commissioners and hoped that they would provide the necessary oversight to end the complacency.

"Both appointees have stellar reputations as thoughtful and forceful advocates for consumers," he said.

The new commissioners could mean a dramatic change in commission policy, said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, an advocacy group that fights for consumer rights and affordable rates for utilities.

"We feel there was a bias toward the utility companies over customers with Schwarzenegger’s appointees," Spatt said.

"These companies serve unhappy customers that are paying too much and not necessarily getting what they are paying for," she said.

TURN Executive Director Mark Toney said today the new commissioners should look at Line 132, which exploded under San Bruno, and order an inspection of the segment that runs under South San Francisco.

"The CPUC has complete jurisdiction over regulating utilities, so they are the only agency with the power to direct PG&E to do something," Toney said.

Florio is a senior attorney at TURN. He will be leaving the nonprofit organization to join the CPUC after 32 years of service.

There is still one vacant seat on the five-member panel since former commissioner Nancy Ryan submitted her resignation last week.

Ryan, who was appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last January, would have been forced to leave the CPUC on Thursday if a state Senate committee didn’t hold a hearing to approve her appointment.

Brown announced Tuesday that he has appointed Ryan as deputy executive director for the CPUC.

"Serving the people of California as a CPUC commissioner has been the greatest of all privileges for me," Ryan said in a statement.

Commissioners are appointed for six-year terms and require state Senate confirmation. Brown will announce additional appointments in the days ahead, the governor’s office said.