Investigators from the California Attorney General's Office reportedly raided the homes of the state’s former chief regulator and a former Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) executive who was fired last year in an e-mail scandal that is still unfolding with state and federal probes ongoing.
Law enforcement officials last Tuesday searched the Los Angeles suburban home of Michael Peevey, long-time president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), who stepped down after a dozen years on the job at the end of last year. The investigators seized computer equipment and smart phones at the Peevey residence.
In addition, the AG Office investigators also seized similar items in a search of the residence of former PG&E vice president for regulatory affairs Brian Cherry in an East San Francisco Bay suburb, according to a report Friday in the Los Angeles Times.
Neither the Attorney General's office, nor the two men targeted, would comment on the state investigative action. In addition to the state probe, the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco launched an investigation in September when PG&E self-reported improper communications between the CPUC and the San Francisco-based combination utility (see Daily GPI, Sept. 16, 2014).
Peevey, a former president at Southern California Edison Co. and an energy industry entrepreneur before being appointed to the CPUC in 2002, left the regulatory agency's top position under a cloud in December (see Daily GPI, Dec. 19, 2014).
Since Peevey left office, PG&E has made public additional revealing e-mails and on Friday turned over a total of 65,000 communications to the CPUC. “The vast majority have been completely appropriate," according to PG&E CEO Tony Earley, who said that for the "few instances" that were in violation of commission rules, the utility took "immediate and definitive action." A spokesperson emphasized that the controversial e-mails were part of a voluntary review PG&E undertook last year.
Earley said PG&E is "fully cooperating" with all of the independent law enforcement investigations of surrounding the e-mails and the utility-CPUC relationship.
Separately on Friday, the CPUC assessed two citations totaling $200,000 against PG&E and a separate $100,000 citation on West Coast Gas Co.'s pipeline operations in the state for various safety related violations. The companies have 10 business days to pay or contest the citations under a program created in the wake of the San Bruno natural gas transmission pipeline failure (see Daily GPI, Jan. 27).
Most of the communications likely will reveal routine communications between the CPUC and the utility, Sullivan noted, but San Bruno city officials that have long been critical of the CPUC for allegedly having "too cozy" a relationship with PG&E praised the state Attorney General's office for taking strong action to uncover the facts of the controversial communications pattern between the regulators and utility.
Meanwhile, a consumer activist attorney in San Diego, Mike Aguirre, argued that the state probe should include communications between Peevey's CPUC and the major utilities in Southern California -- SCE and Sempra Energy's two utilities, Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas and Electric Co. In addition, Gov. Jerry Brown defended Peevey publicly by calling him a "real champion of advancing the state's environmental goals," according to the Times report.