LA legislator wants to scrap the CPUC and start over again

5 February 2016 by Steve Blum

When you’re in the broadband business, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the bulk of the work done by state utility regulators, particularly the California Public Utilities Commission, has nothing to do with telecommunications. And from the most basic, life and death perspective, broadband is nowhere near the top of the priority list.

That privileged position belongs to the natural gas industry, because a mistake can literally destroy a town, due to an explosion, as in San Bruno, or due to a major leak, such as the ongoing one in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles County.

The CPUC’s handling of those two incidents, and the events leading up to them, has been the target of fulsome criticism, and now, if a southern California assemblyman has his way, could mean the end of the agency. Mike Gatto (D – Glendale) says he’s going to put a constitutional amendment in front of California voters that would abolish the CPUC and allow the legislature to parcel out its various jobs…

“After hearing about how the clear warnings of the impending Aliso Canyon gas leak were lost in the shuffle, I concluded that we need to rethink the way we regulate utilities in this state,” said Gatto. “Our concern is that the CPUC is too big to succeed; it is time to hit the reset button.”

The CPUC’s role is baked into the California constitution, so to eliminate it, Gatto will need the agreement of two-thirds of the legislature (or get a few hundred thousand signatures on initiative petitions) and then agreement from voters.