Editor's Note: This press release was sent by state Sen. Leland Yee's office.
On a 23-14 vote, the California Senate today approved legislation to require public disclosure of accident and safety reports filed with or generated by the California Public Utilities Commission.
The approval comes after the bill fell two votes short last week, but was granted a reconsideration vote today after the bill’s author, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), accepted some technical amendments that removed some of the opposition.
In addition to the disclosure of accident and safety reports of gas and electric utilities, SB 1000 would also require the CPUC to make improvements on the commission’s website to ensure greater transparency of investigations, tests, and other reports. The CPUC is currently revising its rules and regulations related to public access of records as well.
“While I had hoped we could bring full sunshine to the CPUC, SB 1000 will ensure that members of the public have access to safety-related documents and other information that affect their families,” said Yee. “In adopting new rules on public access to all other records, I urge the CPUC to bring as much transparency as possible.”
Most documents at the CPUC are shielded by a secrecy statute passed in 1951 and a Commission rule adopted in the mid-1970s.
“If the San Bruno disaster has taught us anything, it is that we need to be vigilant in ensuring utility companies are not endangering our communities,” said Yee. “The CPUC is supposed to be there to protect us and not act as a barrier to public access. SB 1000 will provide much-need transparency and accountability.”
Two other bills to hold the CPUC accountable failed during the Senate committee process.
SB 1403, to require a vote of the entire Commission before assigning cases to specific commissioners and to require CPUC staff to report and be accountable to the full Commission and not just the president, was killed by the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.
Despite a bipartisan 7-6 vote in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, SB 981 to stop the revolving door of employees between the utilities companies and the CPUC was help on the suspense file in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
SB 1000 will now be considered by the State Assembly.