Capitol Alert

Emails show attorney general is investigating Public Utilities Commission

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, shown in March, has begun an investigation into the Public Utilities Commission, regarding its oversight of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the 2010 San Bruno explosion.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, shown in March, has begun an investigation into the Public Utilities Commission, regarding its oversight of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the 2010 San Bruno explosion. Sacramento Bee file

State Attorney General Kamala Harris quietly opened an investigation last month into the California Public Utilities Commission regarding rate-setting procedures and the gas-line explosion in San Bruno, according to emails obtained by The Sacramento Bee.

The investigation comes amid ongoing controversy surrounding back-channel communications between the commission and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The commission’s president, Michael Peevey, announced Thursday that he will not seek reappointment when his term expires at the end of the year.

In a Sept. 19 email, Kathleen Kenealy, chief assistant attorney general for the civil law division at the California Department of Justice, issued a “hold notice” to the commission’s executive director, Paul Clanon, for records related to the investigation. The email indicated the attorney general’s focus is on issues surrounding the gas-line explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno in 2010, and on communications between commission officials and PG&E in the selection of an administrative law judge for a rate-setting case.

“Paul – I just left you a voice mail to let you know that the Attorney General will be conducting an independent investigation of the CPUC,” Kenealy said in the email. “This is your notice for the CPUC to immediately put a hold on and to preserve all electronic, paper, and any other documentation or potential evidence of any type relating to: (1) the San Bruno Explosion investigation and any PUC matters in connection with that incident; (2) the current rate setting proceeding for PG&E; and (3) anything relating to the assignment of ALJs to PUC matters.”

Kenealy’s “hold notice” to the PUC came on the same day state Sen. Jerry Hill, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane called publicly on Harris to investigate the PUC.

Kenealy told Clanon that the agency would issue an investigative subpoena the following week. The probe appeared to go on privately as critics stepped up pressure on her office to investigate. As recently as Tuesday, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, issued a statement renewing his call on Harris to open an investigation.

Karen Clopton, chief administrative law judge at the PUC, responded to Kenealy in a Sept. 22 email.

“Thank you very much for letting us know that the Attorney General will be conducting an independent investigation of these matters,” she wrote.

In a probe by a separate agency, PG&E said Monday it had been notified by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco that it had begun an investigation into the private communications.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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