Ding Dong, Peevey's Gone – Who Will Replace Him?

Former CPUC staffer Dan Berman, co-author of "Who Owns the Sun?" speaks at an Oct. 2, 2014 press conference on the CPUC steps. Photo: EON

[ Portions of this blog appear as “Who will replace Michael Peevey on the CPUC?” on the SF Gate Opinion Page. ]

EON's Mary Beth Brangan addresses the Commission, calling for reform. EON photo

A Call for Reform
EON’s Co-Director had this to say to the Commissioners during the public comments of the Oct. 2, 2014 CPUC meeting: [ Click here for video. ]

Having just returned from the NY People’s Climate Convergence, I’m freshly aware that at this crucial time when we have just a few decades to avert the worst of the catastrophic effects of climate change, how the CPUC regulates monopoly utilities is increasingly critical.

That’s why the pattern of corruption we’ve witnessed is even more disastrous.

From collusion with PG&E regarding the horrendous disaster in San Bruno; to colluding with PG&E regarding spying on ratepayers objecting to forced installation of harmful ‘smart’ meters; to colluding with Southern California Edison over who pays for their terrible management of San Onofre nuclear reactors; the pattern of corruption is clear.

But I was still shocked when I was told by a reliable source, a former CPUC President, that as my dear friend and colleague, Barbara George was dying, her intervenor compensation was deliberately withheld, though people at the Commission knew she needed the money for her cancer treatment.

After friends and lawmakers intervened, a check was finally released but Barbara died before it came.

Today I stand with both the dismayed public and your own CPUC staffers who are calling for a Commission they can be proud to work for.

Corruption and climate crisis, aging nuclear reactors, hazardous wireless meters and natural gas pipelines don’t mix.

San Francisco, Oct. 2, 2014 - President Peevey and CPUC Commissioners listen to a string of public comments calling for Peevey's ouster. A week later he resigned. EON photo.

Peevey’s Gone – Who Will Replace Him?

By James Heddle – EON, the Ecological Options Network (Updated)
[ Portions of this blog appear as “Who will replace Michael Peevey on the CPUC?” on the SF Gate Opinion Page. ]

‘You can’t fire me, I quit!’
Clean energy, nuclear free and stop-smart-meter activists won’t have Michael Peevey to kick around any more. The beleaguered, utility-friendly CPUC President
resigned Thursday in what the LA Times called a ‘pre-emptive’ move to avoid non-reappointment at the end of his expiring term in December. Peevey threw in the towel just one week after angry citizens held a press conference on the CPUC steps and packed a boisterous Commission meeting to demand his ouster. [ See videos below ]

“Mr. Peevey, you’re a putz. You’re cozy in bed with PG&E. So we’re pink slipping you.” Those were the words of Code Pink activist Cynthia Papermaster as she disrupted the opening of the Oct. 2 public comments period and was escorted out by security personnel.

Peevey’s own hasty exit came after weeks of controversy following disclosures of too ‘cozy’ e-mail exchanges between him and other CPUC representatives and Pacific Gas & Electric officials in connection with the San Bruno gas disaster. The obvious implication in the public mind is that that cozy relationship obtains on other issues and with other utilities, and has become the normal M.O. of the Commission. Even the Commission employees threatened rebellion at a recent staff meeting, tired of ‘being ashamed’ of working for such a compromised agency.

Photo: EON

“Twelve years as President is [sic] enough.”
Peevey’s statement in the brief Commission press release announcing that he would not “seek reappointment” carried an irony in many eyes. Those twelve years spanned the era of deregulation and privatization and were certainly ‘enough’ for the CPUC to become what many regard as the poster child for regulatory capture. Too friendly relations between regulators and regulatees, (i.e., investor-owned, for-profit, monopoly utilities, aptly called IOUs) seems to be the norm from the local to the national and even to the global these days – note the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) flaccid response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

But the CPUC’s stance toward both Southern California Edson’s bungling at it’s now-shutdown San Onofre nuclear plant between LA and San Diego and PG&E’s performance in relation to wireless smart meter rollout, San Bruno gas line maintenance, and management of it’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant north of Santa Barbara, strikes many observers as especially egregious. Peevey’s twelve-year tenure leaves behind a ‘culture of conviviality’ between the Commission and the corporations that puts both the public interest and public safety at risk.

Can that culture be reformed by changes at the top? Or does the very model of a governor-appointed, rather than a publicly-elected Commission need to be seriously considered? With sweeping structural reform unlikely, attention will now focus on who Governor Jerry Brown will appoint as the next CPUC president. ( Peevey will still be voting on CPUC decisions until the end of the year; plenty of time to do more mischief. )

Who’s Next?
Two names already being suggested by progressives are former California Energy Commission Executive Director, attorney John Geesman, and former federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko.

You can bet the utilities have their favorite candidates, too. Given the fact that Brown has two former PG&E VPs in his inner circle [ Nancy McFadden, his Executive Secretary – who ran the company’s Prop 16 campaign to block community choice energy projects – and Dana Williamson, his Cabinet Secretary ], the likelihood of a major shift in leadership at the CPUC seems slight. But you never know. Public outrage and pressure has brought us this far. Now is the time to organize, agitate, advocate and push hard for the changes we want.

Some YouTube subscriber feedback thus far on the public comments:

SIGRUNN9
Well done Ladies and Gentlemen! Bravo, you inspire me to start getting out there and stating “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more!”

jeansprettypups
Excellent I stand with these people, and I want to see all nuclear plants shut down as well of all nuclear waste taken care of period

Reverend Galileo
The east coast hasn’t caught on yet, come on people, we must share this.

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