State and local elected officials from around San Bruno, CA, on Friday called for California Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the latest revelations of inappropriate state regulator-utility contact evolving from Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s (PG&E) pending natural gas system rate case (see Daily GPI, Sept. 16).
The same officials have been alleging for months that the PG&E interface with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has been "too cozy" in the four years of regulatory and political drama surrounding the Sept. 9, 2010 PG&E natural gas transmission pipeline explosion in a residential section of San Bruno (see Daily GPI, Feb. 5; Sept. 13, 2010).
San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane, state Sen. Jerry Hill and state Assemblymember Kevin Mullin held a press conference in San Francisco to call attention to a letter they sent to the attorney general's office calling for an investigation of what they said were "apparent violations of law" in inappropriate communications between PG&E and the CPUC.
The San Francisco-based combination utility voluntarily announced the violations in a filing to the CPUC last Monday, including notice it had fired the three top regulatory affairs executives at the utility. The CPUC said President Michael Peevey's chief of staff resigned as a result of the revelations, Peevey is recusing himself from two major PG&E gas regulatory cases, and the state regulators said they may take additional action against the utility.
"The emails showed that the chief of staff for Peevey -- with his knowledge -- repeatedly engaged in communications with PG&E in violation of CPUC Code [Section 1701.3], which prohibits certain communications that are not available to all parties in a rate-setting case," the officials said.
Their letter cited what they said appeared to be "a series of illegal interventions" on behalf of PG&E for both the long-running pending San Bruno penalty phase case related to the pipeline failure and the more recent pipeline/storage rate proceeding, which is ongoing.
A PG&E spokesperson said the elected officials were overlooking the fact that the utility took the action to divulge the wrongdoing regarding the email contacts.
"We didn't wait for someone else to take action," said Keith Stephens. "We took responsibility by self-reporting this violation. We held individuals accountable [in the three executive firings], and we took swift and immediate actions to ensure this conduct will never happen again."