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California Regulator Makes Public Apology for PG&E Flap

Mike Florio, one of California's five top energy regulators, made an unprecedented public apology Thursday for his role in recently divulged private e-mail communications between himself and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) concerning a pending regulatory case (see Daily GPI, Sept. 16).

The apology came at the first meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since inappropriate communications between the regulators and the utility made headlines throughout the state. A long line of consumers showed up at the meeting in San Francisco to call into question the integrity of the regulatory panel and its administrative law processes.

Florio said he had made "some very serious mistakes," and used "excessive candor" in the now public emails from earlier this year. "I recognize that I made some serious errors, and I want to assure everyone that such communications are something I have not engaged in before, and certainly will never do so again."

Florio said he has personally apologized to several administrative law judges (ALJ) that he specifically called out in his back-and-forth communications with PG&E executives, who were subsequently fired over the disclosure of the communications, which violated the commission's rules on ex-parte contacts.

"Today, I want to further extend that apology to all of my colleagues and the commission staff and the public we serve," Florio said. One of the CPUC's top ALJs has removed himself from a pending PG&E natural gas pipeline and storage rate proceeding that was at the center of the controversy, he said.

In addition to three PG&E executives being fired, the chief of staff to CPUC President Michael Peevey was asked to resign after being center stage in the inappropriate e-mail discourse. A number of elected officials, consumer advocates and members of the public have called for Peevey to resign. Peevey has not addressed the topic. His second six-year term on the regulatory body is scheduled to end Dec. 31.

"All I can do at this point is pledge that I will do everything I can to rebuild the credibility and trust in our commitment to the process and the work we do," said Florio, a long-time chief attorney for a major utility consumer group before he was appointed to the commission by Gov. Jerry Brown three years ago.

In the two weeks since the emails were made public, state and local elected officials from around San Bruno, CA, have called for California Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the latest revelations of the CPUC and PG&E being "too cozy," particularly regarding the utility's pending $1.29 billion natural gas system rate case (see Daily GPI, Sept. 19).

On Thursday, the CPUC interim chief of the ALJs also reported that the judge's division at the CPUC is formulating a motion for the five regulators to consider that would order PG&E to show why it should not be held in contempt and sanctioned for its illegal communications with the CPUC.

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