Although there are only two vacant seats on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Gov. Jerry Brown could have a third seat to fill if one sitting member's six-year term is not approved by the state Senate later this month.

Nancy Ryan, an economist and former CPUC staff executive appointed a year ago by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has never been confirmed by lawmakers (see Daily GPI, Jan. 29, 2010). If the Senate fails to act, Brown could have a third appointment or he could reappoint her, which would allow Ryan to operate as a member for another year while attempting to get legislative confirmation.

The new governor also could replace long-standing CPUC President Michael Peevey as head of the five-member board. Peevey, however, would remain on the CPUC as he received Senate approval for an additional six-year term at the end of 2009.

Schwarzenegger kept Peevey as CPUC head during his seven years in office, although Peevey, a Democrat, was originally put in that position in 2003 by Gov. Gray Davis, who Schwarzenegger replaced after winning a recall election in late 2003.

A report in the Los Angeles Times Friday speculated that Brown is close to making an announcement on the CPUC appointments and is thought to be leaning toward bringing more "consumer balance" back to the agency.

Names being talked about in Sacramento, according to news reports, include mostly populist and consumer-oriented candidates. They include John Geesman, a former member of the California Energy Commission (CEC); Mike Florio, a former board member at the California Electricity Oversight Board and long-time regulatory attorney for the state's major utility consumer group, TURN (The Utility Reform Network); and Dean Florez, a former state legislator from the Bakersfield area who has been critical of the CPUC. Others include a university law professor and telecommunications expert; a retired labor leader; and a second former CEC member, Julia Levin.

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