Tag Archives: peevey

CPUC won’t release evidence given to state, federal criminal investigators

by Steve Blum • , , ,

No perp walk for Peevey. Yet.

The California Public Utilities Commission wants to hold onto documents it delivered to state and federal investigators looking into possible illegal backroom dealings between former commission president Michael Peevey, a former Pacific Gas and Electric company lobbyist and, potentially, others. That’s the gist of a draft decision released yesterday that would, if approved by the commission next month, reject a public records disclosure request from a San Diego trial lawyer.

On the one hand, the draft is a straightforward explanation of grand jury secrecy. On the other, it details how the CPUC delivered two disks full of evidence to a state criminal grand jury and also cooperated with a federal criminal investigation. The draft confirms what’s already been widely reported: federal and state prosecutors launched criminal investigations into how Peevey handled the CPUC’s response to a fatal PG&E gas line explosion in San Bruno…

The Commission received grand jury subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco, which had a joint task force with the [California] Attorney General. The federal and state grand jury subpoenas overlapped on subject matter. The U.S. Attorney’s Office specifically admonished that disclosure of any of its issued subpoenas or the Commission’s response could impede or obstruct its investigation. It directed the Commission not to disclose the subpoenas or its response to any third party, including [California public records act] requests, for the indefinite future. Since the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s investigations overlapped, the task force included state prosecutors, and the documents sought in the state grand jury subpoenas are similar to those covered by the federal grand jury subpoenas, the Commission cannot disclose the subpoenas or its responses. Doing so could impinge on the integrity of the criminal investigations.

The draft confirms that a major focus of the criminal investigations is “how and to whom various cases were assigned to administrative law judges”.

Peevey ended his 12 year stint as CPUC president in 2015. So far, neither investigation – California or federal – has resulted in any criminal charges.

CPUC president takes pride in California’s policy leadship and leaders as he leaves

by Steve Blum • , ,

I surrender!.

Michael Peevey gave his final remarks as president of the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday, following a meeting filled with tributes from friends and colleagues and seasoned with personal invective from perpetually outraged activists.

In summing up his 12 years on the commission, he said…

If I had to point to the one thing, perhaps, that I’m most proudest of at this commission, it’s what I’ve done to drive [General Order] 156 from $1 billion to $8.6 billion in spend on minority owned firms and disabled veteran owned firms…There’s no place in the United States that comes close to this. The federal government is a poor, poor second or third to California…

So I”ve been president for a long time, I think I’ve had a pretty good run. 12 years is maybe excessive, it’s certainly excessive in some people’s minds. My goal is always to reduce our carbon footprint. From the day I walked into this job, it’s true I said I wanted to be the greenest commissioner in the history of this commission and I hope I’ve achieved that.

I also wanted to push our regulated industries to reflect the richness and diversity of California. And we’ve done that. Not just the energy companies, not just the telecom companies, the water companies and others

I think, today, California is better place than it was 12 years ago. We’re leading the nation and the world in our policies to reduce greenhouse gases and to curb climate change. We’re leading the world. And because of our supplier diversity program we’re changing corporate culture across America. We’re putting it into the DNA of major entities.

So I think I leave the commission in good hands. It’s always been a powerful agency, because consumers spend more than $50 billion a year on the services regulated by this commission. The question is, however, will it continue to be public policy-relevant. I think that’s a real challenge.

We were relevant during my tenure because we did get things done. Maybe not in the smoothest, kindest, most political way, but we got a lot done on energy policy – I just mentioned that, [our] climate change [work] is not bad. We got a lot done in telecommunication – much improved broadband access is not a shabby achievement. We created the safety and regulatory rules for transportation network companies, the first, as I said, in the nation and in the world. Now other states and countries look to our rules as a model for their regulations. And we showed, we showed the utilities that buying from small and diverse suppliers will actually help their business, reduce their costs and help Californians, and as I said, the spend is now over eight and half billion dollars.

During the years I was at this commission, we attracted the best and the brightest to come work here, in many cases. They agreed to be paid less, because they knew their work would matter. That their work would form and change policy. And relevancy and power should go hand in hand. But in government you have to get things done to remain truly relevant. My hope for this commission is that it continues to attract talented individuals.

I want the commission to stay relevant, I want the commission to reduce bureaucracy, I want the commission to create greater efficiencies. I hope that the commission will always focus on what is the common good. I want the rules and regulations that it adopts to be that way. And lastly I want to thank and recognise the commission staff for its dedication and its independence. Though it’s easy to sit up here, the staff is the foundation of this building. Staff is what makes it work. Not just in any one division, but across the board, it’s what makes it all good.

So. Public service. I never thought when I came here, asked by [governor] Davis at a time of crisis, that I’d be here for 12 years. But it is a great honor, even though there’s a lot of brickbats and all those kinds of things, it’s a great honor to serve the public. There’s probably no higher calling than that. And you know, I may be gruff on the outside, but I’m actually a softer person in reality.

After quoting president Obama and reciting a Robert Frost poem – “miles to go before I sleep” – he had one last thing to say to friends and critics alike…

I surrender, don’t shoot, I surrender!

Friends and foes give CPUC president a raucous send off

by Steve Blum • , ,

Mike, half the people are here are here to congratulate you on your retirement…the others are here to make sure you’re retiring. It’s pretty indicative of the dynamics of this agency.
Danny Curtin, California Conference of Carpenters

Those few words summed up a sometimes laudatory, sometimes vitrolic 3 hours as friends, past and present colleagues, anti-wireless activists and others praised and attacked retiring California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey at his final meeting yesterday in San Francisco.

It began with 30 speakers congratulating Peevey on the work he’s done in his 12 years presiding over the CPUC. The line up included several former commissioners, including Rachelle Chong and an impassioned Tim Simon who highlighted, among other things, the CPUC’s leadership in broadband development and closing the digital divide. Congratulations were read from former governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who appointed and reappointed Peevey to the job. Many speakers talked at length about Peevey’s early career as a union organiser; fewer words were devoted to his time as a utility executive.

The accolades went on for 2 hours, an appropriate testimonial interlude for some, but aggravating to a large and increasingly testy contingent of the tin foil hat brigade, who were there to oppose new wireless electric smart meter fees which were on the agenda (and later approved). When their turn came, an even dozen stepped up to lambaste Peevey personally (at one point prompting a brief conversation between the speaker and a police officer) and the commission generally as they damned radio communications in all its aspects, and flogged the various other grievances they carried.

After a lunch break, commissioners worked through the agenda. At the end, current commissioners expressed their respect for Peevey’s leadership. The meeting wrapped up with Peevey’s own reflections about his term as president – more on that Monday.

Representatives from regulated public utilities were notably absent, not surprising given the ongoing accusations of back room dealing by Peevey and others. Governor Jerry Brown didn’t send a message either, but he’ll have the last word: he will shortly be appointing Peevey’s replacement.

With no BMOC, expect a different CPUC next year

by Steve Blum • , , ,

With the departure of Michael Peevey as president of the California Public Utilities Commission after 12 years on the job, the style and, almost certainly, the substance of its work will change significantly. The direction and speed of that change depends on who the governor appoints to take his place.

Judging by the other four commissioners – all Brown appointees – the new honcho is unlikely to be an ex-utility executive like Peevey. Two of the current members – Mike Florio and Carla Peterman – are alumni of TURN, which is arguably the state’s most influential utility consumer advocacy group. Catherine Sandoval is a law professor and former agency – federal and state – staffer. The newest commissioner, Michael Picker, was an aide to Jerry Brown.

If Brown decides to promote one of the four, Sandoval is the likeliest choice. She has a gold-plated resume and public agency management experience. Although she’s considered an expert in telecommunications law and regulation – she was even mentioned as a possible pick for FCC chair a couple of years ago – Sandoval has considerable experience in the energy field as well.

But even if Brown brings someone in from the outside, you can safely assume that it won’t be someone with Peevey’s Big Man on Campus persona. That style of running the commission’s business has worn a bit thin. The latest example was the bluster and apparent arm-twisting that led to the commission withdrawing its endorsement of common carrier regulation of Internet infrastructure.

For now, though, Peevey is still at the helm. His final meeting as president will be in December. It will be interesting to track whether Peevey will push to leave his imprint on key issues, like net neutrality and the Comcast-Time Warner-Charter menage, before then.

No surprise, CPUC president calls it quits

by Steve Blum • , ,

The California Public Utilities Commission will have a new president next year. Michael Peevey, head of the commission for the past 12 years, announced yesterday that his current term will be his last

I originally planned to make the following announcement at the CPUC’s regularly-scheduled Voting Meeting on October 16th, but instead I am moving the announcement to today to state that I will not seek reappointment to the CPUC when my term expires at the end of this year. Twelve years as President is enough. The Governor, of course, will make a decision as to my successor in due time. I will speak more extensively regarding my terms as CPUC President at the last Voting Meeting of the year on December 18th.

It’s hardly a shock. There was little expectation that he’d be named to a third term. Peevey has been hammered in recent weeks for what appears to be a cosy (to put it politely) relationship with Pacific Gas and Electric, one of the biggest utilities the CPUC regulates. He was formerly the president of Southern California Edison and originally appointed by then-governor Gray Davis to fix the state’s electricity system, which was in something of a meltdown in 2002.

Arguably, Peevey did just that, or at least played a major role in finding and implementing solutions, and was reappointed to a second 6 year term in 2008 by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s also helped champion independent broadband infrastructure projects, among other good works. Nevertheless, Peevey has always carried a reputation of being friendly to big, incumbent utilities and lately has seemed increasingly out of step with the other 4 commissioners, all of whom were appointed by Jerry Brown.

No word yet on a replacement, and it could be the end of the year before Brown decides who it will be.