Surviving CPUC reform bills sent to governor

10 September 2016 by Steve Blum
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Final versions of two utility regulation reform bills have been sent to governor Brown for his review. Senate bill 62 and SB 512, carried by senator Jerry Hill (D – San Bruno), change the way the California Public Utilities Commission conducts business. Both were passed in the final hours of the legislative session last month, without last minute changes.
SB 512 is the more consequential of the two. It aims to open CPUC proceedings to greater public scrutiny and participation. One of Hill’s goals was to bring local governments into decision making processes – the City of San Bruno found out about problems with PG&E oversight the hard way: a natural gas line exploded, killing eight people and devastating a neighborhood. His remedy is to require the CPUC to make an effort to let interested parties – including local governments – know when issues affecting them are up for consideration. According to the legislative analyst, that notification would happen early in the process…

Where feasible and appropriate, except for adjudication cases, before determining the scope of the proceeding, the commission shall seek the participation of those who are likely to be affected, including those who are likely to benefit from, and those who are potentially subject to, a decision in that proceeding.

SB 62 is an attempt to increase the independence of CPUC safety reviews, by creating a safety advocate’s office. The bill was the result of an end of session gut and amend maneuver. I don’t know the back story, but it happened in the midst of deteriorating negotiations over the content of a larger CPUC reform package, initially agreed by the governor, Hill and two other lawmakers. SB 512 and SB 215, a measure that tightens rules regarding private meetings between commissioners and interested parties, were the only two bills in that package that made it to the governor’s desk. He’s expected to sign both of them. His opinion of SB 62 is still to be determined, but it’s worth noting that it involves the kind of vague reorganisation of the bureaucracy that he’s vetoed in the past.