Gov. Brown speaks on CPUC president controversy

November 2, 2012 7:22:19 PM PDT
There is a growing movement to remove the president of the California Public Utilities Commission. Michael Peevey faces harsh criticism for the CPUC's performance before and after the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion. Governor Jerry Brown has the power to remove him but has been silent on the issue, until now.

Peevey critics say this is a case of the fox watching the henhouse. As recent evidence they point to the fact that he appointed himself as the commissioner in charge of the PG&E penalty phase and that he unilaterally appointed a negotiator for the settlement talks. That negotiator probably had to withdraw because of a conflict of interest pointed out by those same critics.

After the PG&E San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes, the NTSB concluded one of the contributing factors was "lax oversight by the CPUC."

Now, two years later, the neighborhood has started a petition drive calling for the removal of CPUC President Michael Peevey. Governor Brown has the power to remove him, but he had not responded specifically about Peevey, until now.

At a Commonwealth Club meeting attended by Brown this week, an audience member described the CPUC's lack of oversight as an embarrassment and disgrace and asked what would remedy that. Brown answered, "I don't agree with that premise. We have very zealous and knowledgeable regulators on the PUC."

San Bruno resident Kathy Derenzi answered back, "I'm shocked. I'm trying to get an appointment with Governor Brown." Derenzi lives up the street from the blast site. She started the petition drive on Change.org. And so far it has only 632 signatures and comments going directly to the governor's office. It's unknown if he's seen them yet.

"The fact that you have a problem, may create a good news story, but it shouldn't be unexpected," Brown said. "We are human beings. Things happen, and then we respond. The Public Utilities Commission has a very important task, with complex industries are under its supervision. And I think it's doing a very credible job."

Assemblyman Jerry Hill fired back, "After the problems we make changes to correct them. That's the final change that needs to take place." The San Mateo assemblyman was the first to call for Peevey's removal months ago, "The governor has made three appointments to the PUC, and new commissioners who are outstanding," Hill said. "But because of the process, the structure, the president has almost dictatorial power."

Derenzi adds, "We're not safe. We need someone who's going to look out for our safety."

San Bruno residents are not alone in their petition drive, last week the San Bruno City Council approved a resolution calling for his removal. And next week the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is expected to follow suit.

Peevey is a former president of Southern California Edison. In the past, the CPUC has said that plays no role in his current position. The CPUC did not answer ABC7 News' requests for comment on Friday.


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