Congresswoman Jackie Speier today urged the governor to reverse the recent decision by the state Public Utilities Commission president to appoint himself to head up the probe considering whether PG&E should be fined for the September 2010 pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor neighborhood.
In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, Speier said she strongly opposed CPUC President Michael Peevey’s self-assignment, citing the fact that the commission received part of the blame for the explosion—which left eight people dead—for its lax oversight over the state’s pipeline operators in the released in August.
By allowing PG&E to be exempt from certain requirements for pressure testing its pipelines, state regulators with the CPUC contributed to the accident, the NTSB report concluded.
“While I realize the full commission will vote on the final penalties to be assessed,” Speier said in the letter, “I believe it is prudent to remove from the process an individual who was a key decision-maker during the time that the CPUC failed to conduct proper oversight.”
Speier urged Brown to instead appoint newly appointed Commissioner Mike Florio, saying that he wouldn’t have a conflict of interest in the case.
Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and The Utility Reform Network also publicly opposed Peevey’s decision when he appointed himself to head the San Bruno probe on Wednesday.
Hill called Peevey's self-assignment “a slap in the face, certainly to the people of San Bruno."
According to TURN, previous gas cases before the CPUC have been assigned primarily to Florio, who was previously a senior attorney at The Utility Reform Network, and Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon, who is chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners Committee on Natural Gas.
The commission issued a statement Wednesday stressing that "each Commissioner handles cases across many industries" and that "it takes a vote of the five Commissioners to decide a case at the CPUC."
The assigned commissioner assembles the record and presents a decision to the full commission, but the full commission must vote on that proposal, according to the statement.
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 fines, some say larger than the $38 million fine the utility was ordered to pay for the Christmas Eve 2008 blast that killed a Rancho Cordova homeowner.
Bay City News contributed to this story.