CA Legislature turns up heat on PUC leadership

Published: Saturday, Apr. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

The California Legislature's ongoing battle with the state agency that regulates oil and gas pipelines continued to escalate this week, with one senator asking California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey in a letter to "justify your continued appointment" in front of a Senate subcommittee next week.

The request came one day after another budget subcommittee held a public hearing on a report detailing a perception among employees that the PUC does not prioritize safety and is too cozy with the utility companies it regulates.

The letter sent Thursday by Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill also notes other reports raising concerns about the agency's commitment to safety conducted in the wake of the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

"For all of the shortcomings under your leadership at the CPUC over the last ten years as documented by independent reports, it's critical that you testify before the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee hearing next week to justify your continued appointment as president of the California Public Utilities Commission," wrote Hill, who represents San Bruno and is a vocal critic of CPUC leadership.

The PUC's efforts to ensure public safety will be the subject of another Assembly subcommittee hearing next week. Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, said in the Assembly Democratic Caucus' weekly radio address that he has asked PUC Executive Director Paul Clanon to return and "respond to the committee's insistence that he produce a comprehensive plan to quickly move the PUC forward."

"I will be working closely with the leadership at the PUC in coming months to ensure that they are meeting their benchmarks and that they are addressing any problems well before they threaten the health and safety of Californians," he said in the prerecorded address.

A PUC spokesperson did not respond to The Bee's inquiry about whether Peevey plans to attend the Thursday hearing.

Peevey, who is married to Democratic state Sen. Carol Liu of La Cañada Flintridge, was first appointed to the commission by then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to another six-year term in 2008.

Gov. Jerry Brown's office released an email statement in response to a request for comment: "Commissioner Peevey's term is up on January 1, 2015. If something changes before then, we'll let you know."

Call Torey Van Oot, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5544.

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