Thomas Elias: Government attorneys should be investigating CPUC

21 Jan

 

sorry for the sloppy cut and paste, but I also included the link here:

http://www.chicoer.com/opinion/20150120/thomas-elias-government-attorneys-should-be-investigating-cpuc

Thomas Elias: Government attorneys should be investigating CPUC
Posted: 01/20/15, 3:46 PM PST |
# Comments
Memo to U.S. attorneys in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego: It’s high time you investigate the former president of the California Public Utilities Commission,
along with some current CPUC members and officials, for things like conspiracy to commit fraud.
Evidence against current commissioners and former commission President Michael Peevey has mounted over the last six months, but there has been no action against
anyone.
State rules forbid utility regulators from communicating individually with executives of the companies they regulate. Any letters, texts or emails must go to all five
commissioners, as a means of preventing secret deals favoring the companies over their customers.
Yet, emails have shown that Peevey for years communicated privately and had understandings with executives of both Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California
Edison Co., of which he was formerly president. He even hosted at least one high PG&E official at his country home in Sea Ranch, north of San Francisco.
He also communicated privately with Edison execs, setting up a dinner in London with one, and in one case reported by the U­T San Diego newspaper agreeing to delay a
CPUC action that would limit the percentage of Edison’s executive bonuses it could bill to ratepayers until after that year’s bonuses had been paid under old rules.
Current Commissioner Mike Florio has recused himself from some votes affecting PG&E because of his role in a “judge­shopping” attempt. Emails showed Florio helped
the utility choose a sympathetic commission administrative law judge to preside over a key case.
And there was the recently disclosed 2012 phone call between Edison’s external relations director and the administrative law judge presiding over a case to determine
how Edison and its customers would split the cost of retiring the disabled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Edison says that call covered only technicalities.

All this led Michael Picker, the new commission president, in a public meeting, to call the emails “troubling and very painful to read.” Yet, in the year he served on the
commission with Peevey, Picker never voted against him in any major case.
Customers of California’s big regulated utilities — PG&E, Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — pay power rates averaging almost twice as much as consumers
served by the municipal utilities in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Riverside, Sacramento and Anaheim.
Utility profits are not supposed to lead to doubly high energy bills. That, in fact, is what the CPUC was set up to prevent.
CPUC favoritism of the big companies over their rate payers has been a constant criticism, but the emails released in recent months provide a smoking gun pointing
toward possible criminal conspiracy. If so, it could be charged as mail fraud and/or wire fraud because excessively high rates set via conspiracy would have been billed by mail or email.
Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre suggests the U.S. attorneys convene special grand juries like the one that indicted PG&E for its conduct surrounding the
fatal 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion.
“We need to investigate how utility rates got so high,” Aguirre said. “It’s been a swamp of dishonesty.”
Aguirre suggests investigating, for example, what happened to money collected by the big companies to ensure utility safety. “Edison was paid money for defective San
Onofre steam generators. PG&E was paid money (since the 1950s) to fix (gas lines), but failed to do so,” his report said. Similarly, he said, defective SDG&E equipment
caused a huge 2007 San Diego County fire.
“In each case, the PUC blocked its (staff’s) investigations into utility executive wrongdoing,” Aguirre charges. No one knows what happened to billions of maintenance
dollars paid by customers.
The bottom line: The evidence of utility regulators’ favoritism of the companies they oversee is so strong, it would be dereliction of duty for prosecutors to ignore it.
Thomas Elias’ syndicated column appears each Wednesday. He can be reached at tdelias@aol.com.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: