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CPUC’s Florio Disputes Latest Claims in PG&E Email Scandal

As the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) email scandal continues to unfold, a California regulator on Wednesday blasted allegations that he was more chummy with a PG&E executive than had previously been disclosed.

In an addition to the emails that showed California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulators and staff being unusually cozy with PG&E executives, three of whom were subsequently fired (see Daily GPI, Sept. 16), a new submittal from the combination utility included a description from one of the fired executives that placed CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio in an embarrassing, if not compromising, position.

According to the email description by the former executive, Florio promised to intercede in a now-pending PG&E billion-dollar gas transmission pipeline/storage rate case and "mentor" the assigned commissioner, Carla Peterman, and write an alternate decision if the utility did not like what Peterman ultimately recommended.

Florio, who apologized earlier in the year after the initial emails were made public (see Daily GPI, Oct. 2), said the latest internal PG&E communications to the company's senior management "mischaracterized" the conversation that he had with PG&E's former regulatory vice president Brian Cherry in January.

"Mr. Cherry's account of that conversation is simply not true," Florio said. "I categorically deny that I ever offered to sponsor an alternative decision if PG&E 'didn't like' the proposed decision [which is yet to come out], nor did I suggest that I would 'mentor' my colleague. Such insinuations are insulting and do not reflect the relationship we have as colleagues [at the CPUC]."

Florio went on to say that he rejects any assertion that Cherry's internal email reflected his actual words or actions. He again -- as he did in October -- said he wanted to assure the public that he is "committed to restoring the commission's credibility and public trust."

The latest brouhaha has caused a state lawmaker from San Bruno, where a fatal PG&E transmission pipeline rupture occurred four years ago, to call for the governor and state legislature to "clean house" at the CPUC. This was on the eve of the final public meeting Thursday of the CPUC under the leadership of Michael Peevey as president. Peevey, a former head of Southern California Edison Co. in the 1990s, has led the state regulatory agency for the past 12 years, an unprecedented run involving three separate appointments by three different governors.

A PG&E spokesperson, who did not comment on Florio's reaction, reiterated that the San Francisco-based utility has self-reported all of the emails as violations of the CPUC ex parte rules, along with holding the senior executives involved accountable, making internal changes to make sure the same thing does not reoccur, and cooperating with state and federal law enforcement investigations (see Daily GPI, Oct. 17).

Both Florio and Peevey recused themselves from the ongoing PG&E gas rate case once the emails were disclosed.

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