California PUC President Peevey stepping down amid criticism

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California's chief utility regulator, Michael Peevey, is under fire over emails showing secret dealings with the state's largest utility, PG&E. Peevey announced Thursday that he will not seek reappointment when his term ends at the end of the year.

The president of California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, Peevey made the announcement after a state lawmaker said he would bring legislation to block Peevey's reappointment to a third term.

San Bruno blast survivor Joe Ruigomez says he's been waiting for Michael Peevey's departure for four years, since he lost his girlfriend and he was badly burned in the explosion of a PG&E pipeline in San Bruno in September, 2010.

"It's a victory for the victims, it's a victory for San Bruno, a victory for California really. It should make the streets safer, the infrastructure safer," said Ruigomez.

"I'm really pleased and excited about it," said Democratic state Senator Jerry Hill.

Senator Hill applauded Peevey's decision, saying, "I believe the most important part is that the CPUC can now become the institution that it was originally designed and created for and that it was historically before."

The news came in a statement from Peevey himself, who said he originally planned to announce his decision at a CPUC meeting next week. He said in an email to ABC7: "I am moving the announcement to today to state that I will not seek reappointment to the CPUC. Twelve years is enough."

Peevey made no mention of the controversy around allegations the CPUC was having backdoor communications with PG&E executives, revealed in emails.

"Hopefully the State of California and the Governor can put some independent people there with an arms-length relationship," said San Bruno Mayor, Jim Ruane.

CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio and Peevey's former Chief of Staff have also been implicated in the scandal and three PG&E executives have been fired.

Then-Gov. Gray Davis appointed Peevey in December 2002, hoping Peevey's experience in utilities would help resolve a state energy crisis then causing widespread blackouts. Peevey previously served as president of energy company Edison International and its subsidiary, Southern California Edison. He is married to Democratic state Sen. Carol Liu.

The utilities commission has said it initiated a third-party review of its communications with regulators.

PG&E's legal counsel has sought to portray the back-channel contacts in the emails as rare events rather than standard practice and stressed that the utility let go the three executives it believed were responsible.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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