Michael Peevey

Emails show CPUC Chief Michael Peevey had meetings at bars, restaurants, across the globe

By Jeff McDonald
Jan. 10, 2015

Newly obtained emails suggest that improper contacts between the former California Public Utilities Commission president and utility executives were more extensive than previously known.

Consumer advocates and at least one lawmaker are worried the behavior may not be limited to Michael Peevey, whose 12-year stint as the top state utility regulator ended Dec. 31 amid criticism.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Bruno, said after reading some of the correspondence. “It is very unethical and illegal, in my opinion. We need full disclosure of all email communications between sitting commissioners and the utilities they regulate.”

Dozens of emails to and from Peevey indicate he communicated regularly with senior officials at Southern California Edison, a public utility he was supposed to keep unbiased watch over.

He scheduled private meetings at bars, accepted dinner invitations at restaurants stocked with caviar, spoke to utility executives in weekend telephone calls and met up with others while traveling abroad.

“London?” Peevey wrote to Edison attorney Stephen Pickett in 2013, the year the commission faced multibillion dollar decisions about the company’s broken San Onofre nuclear power plant. “If coming, meet us at Stafford Hotel at 6 today.”

The Edison lawyer quickly accepted.

“I’m meeting some friends for dinner at 8:30,” Pickett added.

Separate emails released last year showed Peevey had been in close contact with Pacific Gas & Electric officials while the utility was under investigation for a deadly pipeline explosion in 2010.

After those emails were disclosed, PG&E fired three executives. Peevey and Commissioner Mike Florio, who also traded emails with PG&E, said they would recuse themselves from future votes concerning the company.

State regulators are not supposed to be in contact with the utilities they oversee in advance of issues coming before the commission.

The companies are permitted to contact all five commissioners jointly, but emails show Peevey was routinely in communication with Edison and PG&E officials apart from his fellow commissioners.

Peevey did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.

Edison said the regulatory process calls for exchanges of ideas and viewpoints between the commission, staff and interested parties.

“These exchanges, which involve many community stakeholders in addition to regulated utilities, help to ensure that the regulatory decision making process is appropriately well-informed,” the company said.

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