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PG&E Finds More Email CPUC Violations; U.S. Attorney Investigates

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) on Monday told state regulators that more violations were uncovered in the company's ongoing internal review of past email communications between former PG&E executives and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). In addition, the U.S. Attorney's San Francisco Office has begun an investigation of the ex parte communications violations.

The latest confession to the CPUC comes just weeks after PG&E initially reported violations (see Daily GPI, Sept. 19). The company fired three executives in is regulatory affairs unit, creating a new chief regulatory compliance executive slot, and bringing on as a consultant former Interior Department secretary and U.S. senator Ken Salazar, now in private law practice.

New email communications that were reported to the CPUC are in addition to those divulged in a Sept. 15 filing to the CPUC. that involved the utility's ongoing gas transmission and storage rate case. The latest communications involve two of the three executives that PG&E fired last month and one commissioner Mike Florio, who was involved in the earlier communication and who made a public apology at last Thursday's CPUC business meeting (see Daily GPI, Oct. 2).

In addition to the earlier filing by PG&E, the San Francisco-based combination utility also filed with the CPUC last week admitting to the violations alleged in a pending order to show cause, noting it expected to receive a penalty in this case. For that proceeding, PG&E attorneys will show up Tuesday before a CPUC administrative law judge.

Meanwhile, with Monday's revelations, PG&E CEO Tony Earley reiterated the utility's commitment "to complying with both the letter and the spirit of the law" and the company's own code of conduct. "No excuses," said Earley, adding that the company has taken the initiative to self report the violations.

In the latest revelations that PG&E self-reported, one is dated to May 2010 and involves a report by Brian Cherry, vice president of regulatory relations, and his boss Tom Bottorff, senior vice president for regulatory affairs. It shows an unusually close tie between Cherry and the CPUC long-time president Michael Peevey. Both Cherry and Bottorff were let go last month after the initial discoveries.

The other emails turned up Monday were between Cherry and the CPUC's Florio regarding some problems PG&E was having a year ago regarding some transmission pipelines that converge at interconnections in San Carlos, CA, on the peninsula not far from San Bruno. The city of San Carlos was challenging the utility regarding the matter, hiring its own pipeline expert and getting a court order against PG&E (see Daily GPI, Oct. 9, 2013).

In addition, to issuing public notification on its CPUC filing, PG&E also said the U.S. Attorney's Office had contacted the utility to confirm it has begun an investigation in connection with the ex parte communications, and a company spokesperson said PG&E intends to fully cooperate.

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