Last Monday, the mayor of San Bruno stood on the steps of the California Public Utilities Commission offices in San Francisco and called for a complete overhaul of the state agency, including the firing of key CPUC officials.
The next day, a federal grand jury indicted PG&E on charges related to its handling of the 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno that destroyed 38 homes and killed eight people.
Mayor Jim Ruane says that emails exchanged between staff at the CPUC and employees of PG&E in the wake of the disaster show that a far-too-cozy relationship exists between the state agency and the public utility it is supposed to regulate.
“PG&E has made illegal efforts to influence the CPUC decisions makers to protect the utility's financial interests,” Ruane said. “Sadly and shockingly, the CPUC has participated in the illegal conduct.”
Some 7,000 pages of emails were released to San Bruno by the CPUC only after the city filed a lawsuit to gain access to the documents.
City manager Connie Jackson says that the emails provide further evidence to support the official conclusions of the investigation carried out by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
“The NTSB produced a report within one year of the explosion that exhaustively demonstrated a number of conclusions and recommendations for correction in the wake of the explosion,” Jackson says. “And among the things they identified as a key causal factor related to the explosion was what they described as a too-cozy relationship between the regulator and the utility. These emails demonstrate that that is in fact true.”
Specifically, Jackson says that CPUC President Mike Peevey engaged in illegal ex parte communications with PG&E. “We are continuing to call for the removal, or minimally the recusal, of President Peevey,” Jackson says.
Peevey is not alone in being implicated for having engaged in illegal communications with PG&E employees who were responsible for the company's response to the disaster. As KTVU reported, one email, “from no less than PG&E's head of regulatory relations to a CPUC administrative law judge, ends with 'love you.'”
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