Protesters demand removal of CPUC president

HANNAH ALBARAZI/Bay City NewsSeveral protesters gathered Thursday outside the CPUC headquarters to demand President Michael Peevey’s dismissal.

A group of protesters gathered on the steps in front of the California Public Utilities Commission's building in San Francisco on Thursday morning demanding the removal of commission President Michael Peevey.

The call for Peevey's ousting comes just weeks after San Mateo County politicians blasted the CPUC and called upon state Attorney General Kamala Harris to conduct an investigation into the commission's allegedly unlawful relationship with PG&E in the wake of the 2010 deadly San Bruno explosion.

The Sept. 9, 2010, explosion of a PG&E gas line in San Bruno's Crestmoor neighborhood killed eight people, injured dozens, destroyed 38 homes and severely damaged 17 others.

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin and state Sen. Jerry Hill alleged last month that the CPUC illegally intervened in the penalty case against PG&E for the San Bruno gas-line explosion in order to secure a more favorable ruling for PG&E. They claimed the commission also engaged in illegal communication with PG&E regarding rate setting.

Protesters assembled Thursday on Van Ness Avenue holding signs with slogans such as “#flushPeevey” and “Peevey Out Now” prior to the commission's meeting.

Peevey, the former president of Edison International and its subsidiary Southern California Edison, was appointed to the position of CPUC president in 2002. His current term expires at the end of this year and he could be reappointed to a third six-year term.

Political activist Steve Zeltzer said protesters addressed the commission Thursday and demanded Peevey's removal, citing his “long record of conflicts of interest.”

Zeltzer said the commission did not respond to protesters' demands for Peevey's removal. He said the commission itself has failed to properly regulate the utility companies' actions.

Zeltzer added he wants to see California create a public utility that has the interest of Californians at its core, rather than private utilities, which he said put profits above consumers' health and safety.

The call for action comes in the wake of PG&E's firing of three employees in September for email conversations with CPUC officials that reportedly discussed assigning administrative law judges to rate-setting cases who would be more sympathetic to PG&E's case.

In July, San Bruno officials obtained emails between the CPUC and PG&E that showed CPUC officials advised PG&E on how to handle legal issues and potential fines stemming from the gas pipeline explosion.

Peevey's chief of staff, Carol Brown, resigned for her part in the email exchanges.

However, CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio, who communicated with PG&E over the judge assignment, remains in his post.

PG&E has said the utility took responsibility for the misconduct and expects a fine.

Hill, Mullin and Ruane publicly signed a letter to Harris calling for an investigation and delivered it to her office in the California State Building in San Francisco last month.

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