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.