CPUC President Michael Picker had regular communications with political insider who has Edison contract

By Jeff McDonald
March 25, 2015 – 7:54 p.m.

California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker has had regular backchannel communications with a consultant and political insider who has a West Los Angeles power deal pending before the commission.

Susan Kennedy, former chief of staff to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a former utilities commissioner herself. She planned the farewell party last month for Picker’s predecessor, Mike Peevey.

Emails obtained by U-T San Diego show Kennedy had easy access to Picker, who pledged when he took over for Peevey to bring a new era of openness and transparency.

Peevey and the commission are the subject of three criminal investigations regarding behind-the-scenes communications and possible favoritism for certain businesses on regulatory matters.

Picker declined to comment, even after the Watchdog provided commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper with copies of the emails. Prosper issued a brief statement about the communications.

“President Picker hears from former commissioners from time to time who provide advice and feedback based on their experiences,” she wrote, also noting that Kennedy and others have been critical of the commission.

Kennedy left the utilities commission in 2006 and has launched several businesses, including one that holds a contractual relationship with Southern California Edison on a matter that is pending commission approval.

Kennedy did not respond to a request for comment, and Prosper did not respond to questions about whether Kennedy’s work for Edison creates a conflict in her dealings with Picker. Edison’s dealings with the commission are one focus of the criminal investigations, particularly regarding premature shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Kennedy is founder and CEO of Advanced Microgrid Solutions, a San Francisco firm that develops energy-storage systems for commercial and industrial buildings. The company was recently awarded four Edison contracts to provide 50 megawatts in West Los Angeles, the matter that is pending utilities commission approval. She also runs a consulting firm that specializes in energy and public policy.

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