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!