Time To End Shadowy Relations Between Utilities, Regulators

TURN and Senator Hill fight the good fight against PG&E

All Californians owe a debt of gratitude to state Sen. Jerry Hill, who represents the Coastside, and a group of activists known as the Utility Reform Network. Together they are holding the California Public Utilities Commission accountable.

Most recently, that work has focused on the completely outrageous relationship that has blossomed between CPUC President Michael Peevey and the very companies he’s paid to regulate.

Peevey has been accepting ridiculous travel packages from nonprofits like the California Foundation on the Environment and Economy, which is funded by energy companies and private utilities. In the past 11 years, he has accepted gifts of more than $230,000 for 200 days of international travel to destinations like Spain, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

Why should you care?

Well, remember Sept. 9, 2010? That’s the day a PG&E pipeline exploded in San Bruno, killing eight people and wounding 50 more. It’s Peevey’s responsibility to assure the safety of California utilities. Ask the people of San Bruno how confident they are in his resolve. That city has sued the CPUC after it suspended evidentiary hearings into the amount of fine due as a result of the explosion and reassigned CPUC attorneys who said it was unethical to let the utility off the hook.

Big-money connections between consultants, regulators, politicians and lobbyists are a scourge of American politics at every level. It’s hard to prove a quid pro quo, but sometimes perception is reality. Merely accepting industry money for luxury travel shows a lack of judgment that calls into question Peevey’s ability to handle the job.

Hill’s Senate Bill 831 would limit gifts for such travel and require shadowy nonprofits to confess just who is paying for these ridiculous trips. It’s legislation we should all support.