Peevey confirmed as California PUC President

December 16, 2009 7:43:49 PM PST
He's one of the most powerful men in the state government and yet most Californian's don't know his name. It is Michael Peevey and he's the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, the entity that oversees electrical, water and telecommunication utilities.

He was re-confirmed for another five years, but not without a fight.

Originally appointed by Governor Gray Davis and then reappointed by Governor Schwarzenegger, Michael R. Peevey has a reputation for being a no-nonsense business oriented commissioner, who has no qualms about overruling his own staff in decisions that affect billions of dollars from utility customers.

Bob Finkelstein is a lawyer for TURN, a utility watchdog group based in San Francisco.

"Unfortunately it is the hallmark of this Public Utilities Commission under Mike Peevey. It is, we're going to do whatever it is to make the utilities happy," he said.

It is the role of the Public Utilities Commission is to regulate utility rates, and recent complaints of industry bias have apparently killed a second term nomination of Commissioner Rachelle Chong.

State Senate President Darrel Steinberg and others on the rules committee are refusing to give Chong a hearing on another six year term.

"And with Ms. Chong I spent a lot of time, and felt that it was more appropriate to have a lead member when it comes to telecom issues serving that longer tenure appointed by the next governor," said Steinberg.

At the hearing, supporters of Peevey lined up to speak on his behalf, but when the executive director of TURN got up to speak, he made it clear he wasn't speaking in opposition, just that he had some concerns opposition, he just had some concerns about the number of times Peevey had overruled his owned administrative law judges to give more money to the utility companies he was regulating.

Peevey, a former CEO of Southern California Edison, said that was his job.

"Frankly that's the purpose of commissioners if you don't want to have any administrative law judges decisions overturned then don't have commissioners," he said.

In a rare interview recorded in late October in anticipation of today's hearing, Peevey denied the allegations that he leans towards the power companies and away from consumers. He says he's believes in giving incentives.

"Tell them what to do and order them what to do may be satisfying in the short run, but it doesn't get you the kind of results as if I empower you and incentivize you, so that you act in your self interest which is in my interest," said Peevey.

Peevey says it's his way of looking at the world and life in our economy and society. The Senate Rules Committee confirmed him for another five years as the president of the Public Utilities Commission.


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