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By David Siders
03/30/2015 12:05 AM
Michael Peevey’s announcement last fall that he would not seek reappointment to the California Public Utilities Commission appeared to offer closure to years of controversy surrounding his tenure.
The commission, which regulates California’s massive energy and telecommunications industries, had been shaken by revelations of back-channel communications with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. following a fatal gas line explosion in San Bruno in 2010.
On the same day critics assembled in San Francisco to call for his ouster, Peevey relented. In a prepared statement, he said, “Twelve years as president is enough.”
Then, at his final meeting in December, Peevey closed with a laugh.
“Don’t shoot,” the commission president said. “I surrender!”
In the months since Peevey left the PUC, however, the scandal that ushered him out of office continues to erupt.
Investigators executed a search warrant at Peevey’s house in January. Lawmakers this month convened oversight hearings on private communications and safety measures at the PUC.
Last Wednesday, Michael Picker, the new president of the commission, acknowledged that before the explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, PG&E diverted money approved for pipeline safety to executive compensation.
“I think there’s a very clear case that in some places, the utility did divert dollars that we approved for safety purposes toward executive compensation,” Peevey told state senators at an oversight hearing.
Since last summer, the PUC has released tens of thousands of emails documenting close ties between regulators and utility officials, and law enforcement officials are searching for more.
Federal and state authorities opened separate investigations regarding rate-setting procedures and the San Bruno gas-line explosion last year. They have requested about 1.6 million documents, and the PUC has received more than 200 other public records requests, Picker said.
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