Amid recent criticism, the president of the state Public Utilities Commission and another commissioner issued a joint statement today further explaining how the probe considering whether PG&E should be fined for the September 2010 pipeline explosion would work.
It was an effort to answer after President Michael Peevey decided to assign himself to lead the case. In today's statement, Peevey and Commissioner Mike Florio said they would be working closely together as partners throughout the process.
The partnership will be similar to the one that has been set up for the two other ongoing CPUC proceedings—one to set new rules for the safe and reliable operation of the state's natural gas pipelines and another to look at whether PG&E violated any rules with its recordkeeping that could have led to the San Bruno explosion. In those proceedings, Florio is leading the effort while Peevey is acting as his partner, a CPUC spokeswoman said.
"This means they can confer freely without running afoul of the Bagley-Keene law, which prohibits private dialogue among a 'majority' of Commissioners—three or more," spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said in an email about the current probe.
Earlier this month, the five members who head the commission voted to open the case to consider penalizing PG&E for the explosion. The probe could result in huge fines.
The job of the assigned commissioner is to assemble the record and present a decision to the full commission, and then the full commission will vote on that proposal, according to the CPUC.
The following is the full joint statement from Peevey and Florio:
On January 12, 2012, the CPUC voted to initiate a penalty consideration case regarding the San Bruno disaster. Although President Peevey will serve as assigned Commissioner in this phase, the two of us will be working together, as co-equals. This will continue the pattern of the past year, in which we have worked closely together, within the confines of California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, on all the San Bruno-related gas cases assigned to Commissioner Florio. While we cannot, at this time, know the ultimate outcome of the penalty consideration case, we are committed to jointly develop a recommendation that will be placed before the full Commission for ultimate disposition.
It is important to recognize that this proceeding is an “adjudication case” under Section 1701.2 of the Public Utilities Code, meaning that the proceeding is quasi-judicial in character and ex parte communications - either with PG&E or with CPUC staff members prosecuting the case - are prohibited. The assignment of a Commissioner to manage the enforcement case does not alter the fact that the CPUC is a five-member body. All five Commissioners will have an equal voice in the result of the San Bruno investigation. This will remain true, no matter which individual Commissioner takes on the case-management role.