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CPUC Transparency Bill Dies in Assembly

State Sen. Leland Yee's SB 100 was rejected by the state Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee on Monday.

A state Assembly committee has rejected a bill that would have required the California Public Utilities Commission to provide more transparency with accident reports and safety records related to utility companies.

The bill, SB 1000, was proposed by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and had . One of the other goals of the legislation was to require that the CPUC make improvements on its website to ensure greater transparency of investigations, tests and other reports.

Yee proposed the bill in response to the 2010 PG&E pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood, which left eight people dead and 38 homes destroyed.

The state Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee on Monday killed the legislation with a 4-0 vote.

“It is very disappointing that the Assembly would kill this good government bill,” Yee said in a statement. “SB 1000 would have brought much-needed sunshine at the CPUC and would have allowed the public to hold the commission and utility companies accountable.”

Adam Keigwan, a spokesman for Yee, said the main reason the bill was defeated was because a competing bill, AB 1541, proposed by state Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, has been gaining support in the state Legislature.

Keigwan said AB 1541 is supported by utilities throughout the state, including PG&E, while Yee's bill had the backing of a coalition of first amendment groups and newspapers.

"Our coalition feels that the Dickinson bill would actually roll back existing rules and make things less transparent than they currently are," Keigwan said. 

Most documents at the CPUC are shielded by a secrecy statute passed in 1951 and a rule adopted in the mid-1970s, Yee said. 

He said his bill was necessary to push for "real accountability" from the CPUC, which was partly blamed for the pipeline explosion because of a lack of oversight over PG&E. 

“One would think that the San Bruno disaster at least taught everyone to be vigilant in ensuring utility companies are not endangering our communities and the CPUC is helping protect us,” Yee said. “Apparently that notion was lost on the Assembly Utilities Committee last night.”

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