Consumer advocates on Wednesday asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to launch a new statewide investigation of the fatal natural gas transmission pipeline explosion last September in San Bruno, a suburb south of San Francisco.
The move comes a day after Gov. Jerry Brown appointed two new CPUC members, one of whom is Mike Florio, a long-time attorney for The Utility Reform Network (TURN), California's oldest utility watchdog group and a critic of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), the San Francisco-based combination utility that operates the high-pressure gas pipeline that exploded.
"Public officials and consumer representatives demand a formal, transparent and meaningful investigation into the San Bruno disaster by the newly appointed CPUC," said a spokesperson with TURN. Led by TURN Executive Director Mark Toney and an aide to state Sen. Mark Leno from San Bruno, TURN submitted an application for an order instituting investigation (OII) to the CPUC.
Both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the CPUC have stepped up investigative efforts regarding PG&E's overall gas transmission pipeline system and particularly the 1,800 miles traversing high-consequence areas (HCA) that include heavily populated parts of the utility's territory in northern and central California. There have been concerns raised over the level of PG&E's record keeping and maintenance of the HCA pipelines.
On Tuesday the governor appointed Florio and telecommunications legal expert Catherine Sandoval as the newest CPUC members. They were given six-year appointments to replace Dian Grueneich and John Bohn, whose terms expired at the end of last year. Brown still has a third CPUC appointment to make to fill the seat previously held by Nancy Ryan, an Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee and former CPUC staffer who never gained state Senate confirmation. Earlier this month Ryan resigned and Brown appointed her deputy executive director of the CPUC.
"I have known Commissioner Florio for many years as a dedicated and passionate consumer advocate who has a reputation for working with all sides to come to the best outcome for ratepayers," Peevey said. He described Sandoval as a "much respected legal scholar and telecommunications expert [who] will bring these skills to the CPUC."
Florio and Sandoval are to attend their first CPUC business meeting Thursday.
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