Change At The CPUC Should Start At The Top

Advocates call for new CPUC president after latest fiasco

There were rising concerns Thursday that ongoing internal disputes at the California Public Utilities Commission could end up costing San Bruno residents, leading advocates to call on the governor for new leadership.

The internal warfare within the state public utilities commission over the San Bruno firestorm has become public.

The CPUC’s chief reasons for existing are to protect consumer safety and ensure fair pricing. Staff attorneys of the California Public Utilities Commission assigned to determining how much PG&E should be fined revolted against their commission’s chief attorney.

The chief attorney, who once was a PG&E lawyer, set off the rebellion by reassigning them after determining that the proposed fine of his former employer was far too high.

That drew the ire of consumer advocates.

“The top leadership of the CPUC has not been effective in providing the kind of leadership in putting consumers first in putting public safety first,” said Mark Toney of the Utility Reform Network.

Wednesday, when the chief attorney recused himself from the case, the new attorney in charge of the PG&E case said: “While we have had some internal misunderstandings, the lawyer team is committed to working to bring justice to San Bruno and improve pipeline safety in California.”

Toney was quick to question that statement.

“We are concerned that the internal disputes with in the CPUC, it’s going to divert resources. It’s going to divert the focus that they need,” said Toney.

KTVU tried to get in touch with commissioners in order to ask about this rare dust up.

The commissioners, meeting Thursday in executive session, knew the press was waiting to talk to them. However, they chose to leave out the back door when their meeting was done, further proof that this Commission is in deep disarray.

“Governor Brown needs to appoint a new President of the CPUC,” said Toney. “The most important thing is that the CPUC focus on holding PG&E accountable.”

The commissioners, claiming they were still meeting, never got back to KTVU Thursday.