Michael Peevey

Peevey, at right, said grants would be ‘satisfactory to our joint purposes’.

By Jeff McDonald
May 12, 2015

Former California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey filed a public notice disclosing an email he received from UCLA regarding grants for greenhouse gas research.

What he didn’t disclose was his own reply, which indicates ongoing behind-the-scenes maneuvering involving Peevey, Commissioner Michel Florio and university faculty.

The San Diego Union-Tribune obtained Peevey’s response from the University of California Los Angeles under the California Public Records Act.

At stake was $25 million in grants for greenhouse gas research, money Peevey secured from utility companies under the settlement agreement for shutdown costs at the failed San Onofre nuclear power plant north of Oceanside.

Peevey first broached the idea at a secret meeting in Warsaw, Poland, in March 2013 and continued his backchannel push for the research funds until they became part of the $4.7 billion settlement deal approved by the commission in November.

Such deal-making has become the focus of multiple state and federal investigations. Commissioners are supposed to act as impartial arbiters at public proceedings on matters that come before them, not as participants, so the private dealings could prove problematic.

On Oct. 2, UCLA professor Stephanie Pincetl asked Peevey to amend terms of the proposed San Onofre settlement to make sure greenhouse gas grants would be invested within the service territories of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, co-owners of the failed plant. That would exclude another likely grant recipient, UC Berkeley.

Her email was the one Peevey disclosed under the commission’s “ex parte” rules, designed to give all stakeholders access to the same information leading up to commission decisions.

According to his newly-released response, sent just two minutes later, Peevey replied, “Thanks. I have already, in consultation with Commissioner Florio, modified the language to make it more precise, etc. I think you will find it satisfactory for our joint purposes —– reducing GHG in SCal.”

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