Associated Press, SAN FRANCISCO — Tens of thousands of newly released emails Friday show a former executive for the state’ largest power utility routinely wining, dining and hammering out behind-the-scenes agreements on utility projects with state utility regulators.
The roughly 65,000 emails, released by PG&E Friday by order of a state administrative law judge, are the latest email releases that have helped fuel state and federal investigations of alleged back-channel dealings between Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and the California Public Utilities Commission.
Previous emails released by PG&E described top state regulators helping PG&E shop for friendly judges in PG&E regulatory cases before the commission, and pressing the utility for donations for political campaigns and for commission galas.
Friday’s emails show former PG&E vice president Brian Cherry and utility regulators coming to terms in private exchanges on numerous PG&E enterprises, ranging from a power plant controversial for being in an earthquake zone to the utility’s public response to a 2010 gas-line explosion that killed eight people in a San Francisco suburb.
In an April 2011 email exchange, Peevey congratulated PG&E executives for how it handled publicity regarding a license renewal for the controversial Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County.
“Very good. Prudent thing to do and should reduce some fears, concerns,” Peevey wrote to Cherry. Cherry asked: “And resurrect our application and get it back on track?” Peevey: “Yep.” Cherry: “Thanks. The sooner the better.” Peevey: “May” (an apparent reference to the month). Cherry: “Great. And thanks again.”
As in emails released earlier, wine featured prominently in Cherry’s dealings with then-commission president Michael Peevey.
“Sara and I will be in Sea Ranch this weekend. If you are up there, we’d love to share a good bottle of Pinot or Cab with you. My treat,” Cherry wrote in 2010.
Cherry and two other utility executives have since left PG&E, which said it released earlier emails in the interests of transparency over past improper communications between the utility and regulators.
“While we make no excuses for past instances of unethical conduct, we have a vital responsibility to communicate with the CPUC on a regular basis as part of our public commitment to becoming the safest gas company in America,” PG&E spokesman Keith Stephens said Friday regarding the exchanges described in the latest emails.
A utility-watching group, The Utility Reform Network, said Friday that Peevey had lost millions of dollars of utility ratepayers’ money through regulatory decisions made “in a quid pro quo arranged over a few bottles of wine with PG&E.”
The watchdog group’s executive director, Mark Toney, urged the commission to reopen any decision made as a result of “back-room deals” and release any internal emails regarding alleged deal-making with regulators.
State prosecutors raided Peevey’s home in La Canada Flintridge on Tuesday to seek computers, day planners and other documents in what they said in court documents was a corruption investigation. Agents also seized a computer and other items from Cherry’s Orinda home.
Peevey, who served 12 years on the utilities commission, ended his final term last month without any public comment on the allegations.