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PG&E Divulges More Emails, Promises to Submit All

Bowing to pressure from its critics, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) on Monday offered more emails containing questionable communications between some of its now-terminated executives and state regulators. It also promised to turn over during the first quarter all pertinent emails since 2010.

There were 12 more email chains submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The San Francisco-based combination utility is still reviewing more than 65,000 emails to ferret out the ones found to carry "appropriate and usual confidential exclusions before submitting the whole batch to the CPUC, likely in mid-February," a utility spokesperson told NGI.

A constant critic since the fatal September 2010 PG&E gas pipeline rupture and explosion in his peninsula suburb, San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane has been after CPUC to require PG&E to turn over all of the emails, many of which have already shown a closeness of private communications that violates state regulatory commission ex parte requirements. In blasting outgoing CPUC President Michael Peevey, Ruane again last week called for PG&E to give up all the emails (see Daily GPI, Dec. 19).

"We believe we can all agree that the business of the CPUC is the business of the public," said PG&E CEO Tony Earley, adding that some of the latest emails made public "suggest clear violations" of ex parte rules and behavior that failed to meet the utility's expectations. "Our emails represent judgment calls that we are submitting out of an abundance of caution."

Earley said PG&E supports open access to communications between the regulatory commission and the parties in its proceedings. He reiterated that PG&E has taken steps internally to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.

Those steps include retaining former U.S. Interior Secretary and Senator from Colorado Ken Salazar, a partner with the law firm of WilmerHale, to provide special counsel on regulatory compliance matters, and creating a new position of chief ethics and compliance officer within the utility company.

In making this latest filing, PG&E is attempting to reaffirm its commitment to "transparency and accountability," while urging the CPUC to adopt new protocols for open access to communication between the regulatory body and all of its proceedings parties.

"PG&E is urging the CPUC to adopt new standards and processes that will allow the public to have easy, open access -- preferably electronically -- to communications the commission has with all parties," a utility spokesperson said. He stressed that the latest email filings contain communications the utility thinks "could reflect past violations of CPUC rules."

In one of the most recently released emails, Brian Cherry, vice president for regulatory affairs, told his boss, Tom Bottorff, the utility senior vice president for regulatory affairs, that he and Peevey talked about various pending cases and CPUC commissioners and staff, and then "ended the conversation with a dram or two of Johnny Walker Blue Label [scotch]."

In others, there are descriptions of Peevey getting Gov. Jerry Brown to personally put pressure on another commissioner (Mark Ferron, who left the commission for health reasons at the start of this year) to ensure a majority approve a decision that PG&E was lobbying hard to get passed by the commission.

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