A Slap on PG&E’s Wrist Won’t Restore the CPUC’s Credibility

by Mindy Spatt, TURN Communications Director

TURN is urging the California Public Utilities Commission to take immediate and decisive steps to restore its own credibility, which is at an all-time low. . Four years after CPUC laxity was cited as a contributing factor to the San Bruno explosion, the Commission’s reputation has been further tarnished by revelations of secret emails between the Commission and PG&E, and secret deals in which Commission President Michael Peevey appears to have given millions of customers dollars away.

In TURN’s view disclosure of all the back-door communications between the Commission and PG&E is a key step. In a pleading filed at the Commission on Nov. 5, TURN renewed our demands for PG&E to turn over records of 65,000 communications with the Commission that may have violated the CPUC’s disclosure rules, and certainly violated rules of propriety.

TURN sharply criticized the Commission’s proposals to slap PG&E’s wrist- and lightly, at that- for emails that have already been released. The Commission’s proposal for miniscule sanctions accepts PG&E’s excuses for the emails that have already been released, and ignores the likelihood of more smoking guns in thousands of unreleased emails.

Above all else, TURN urges the three commissioners who are going to vote on the proposed sanctions, Commissioners Sandoval, Peterman and Picker (Commissioners Florio and Peevey had to recuse themselves due to their own involvement in the emails) to “act promptly to show that [the Commission] intends to facilitate a thorough and transparent investigation into the full extent of PG&E’s misconduct, even if additional revelations show more improper behavior at the Commission’s highest levels.”

TURN urges the Commission to:

• Order PG&E to file notices of ex parte communications for all of its admitted oral communications regarding ALJ or Commissioner assignments, under oath

.• Order PG&E to disclose and make available on its website in searchable format the 65,000 e-mails to and from the Commission that PG&E referenced in its September 15 press release.

• Promptly express the Commission’s intent to allow parties broad discovery rights regarding the extent of improper communications and secret deal-making by PG&E.

• Voluntarily and swiftly (rather than waiting for a public records request) produce all non-public communications involving PG&E representatives and Commissioners, their personal advisors, the Commission’s Executive Director, Division Directors, and all other Commission decision-makers.

• Fully and promptly comply with public records requests by the City of San Bruno.

TURN urged the 3 Commissioners to act swiftly, decisively and transparently, and stressed that the emails TURN and San Bruno are seeking are within the Commission’s power to release, or order released. “Everyone who cares about the integrity and regulatory effectiveness of the California Public Utilities Commission is watching and waiting for you to act.” TURN said.