CPUC President Appoints Himself to Lead Investigation Against PG&E

In the five years leading up to the fire, the CPUC found that PG&E committed more than 400 safety violations.  Each time, instead of fining PG&E, it let it off with a warning.

It was the CPUC’s job to keep the public safe from PG&E.  The CPUC failed to do that job.  The CPUC has never adequately explained why it let PG&E slide for so many years.

Michael Peevey has been at the helm of the CPUC since 2002.  Instead of stepping down, he has now appointed himself to lead the investigation against PG&E.

Is it any wonder that the public has no trust in the regulators?

 

PG&E Says Its Rights Are Being Violated

Without a judge to preside over their claims, the San Bruno fire victims' lawsuits have, up until now, been in limbo. That will soon change, as Judge Steven Dylina has just been assigned to hear all the suits arising from the PG&E fire, wherever those suits may have been filed. The first hearing in the cases should be scheduled within the next two weeks. The order assigning Judge Dylina is here.

Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commision continues to investigate PG&E's management and maintenance practices. But PG&E is already crying foul. According to Steve Johnson's latest article in the San Jose Mercury News, PG&E objects to the CPUC's "tone":

In a testy response to the commission's order that by Monday it answer questions about its record-keeping practices, PG&E's attorneys said the agency seems to be starting "with a presumption of guilt" that is "contrary to American precepts of due process."

It's a bit ironic to hear PG&E complain that it has not been afforded "due process," given that its victims have been waiting for months for their chance to be heard at all. 

Regulators Ignored PG&E's Long History of Safety Violations

Safety regulations were supposed to prevent the San Bruno fire.  But they didn’t.  One reason is that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC president pictured) didn't do its job.  Instead of enforcing the CPUC Commissioner Peeveyregulations, when the CPUC caught PG&E in a violation, it let PG&E slide.  Not just once. But more than 400 times in the past 6 years.  That’s according to the CPUC’s own records. 

PG&E is the worst safety violator of all the utilities in the state of California. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 410 “probable” violations since 2005. Yet, in not one case did the CPUC fine PG&E. Instead, it let PG&E off with a warning.  Every time.

Why?  The CPUC says that it goes easy on PG&E for two reasons. First, it “assumes” PG&E has an interest in safety. According to the Chairman of the CPUC’s consumer safety division:

We operate under the assumption they are interested in having a safely operated system.

But given PG&E’s history of running its equipment to failure, why would the CPUC “assume” that PG&E is interested in safety? The fact of the matter is that PG&E is not interested in safety.  It is interested in profits.  Anyone who doubts that need only read PG&E’s somewhat indifferent warning to shareholders about the problems with its gas operations. Though PG&E showed great concern that an explosion might be a drain on profits, it expressed no concern for what an explosion might do to its customers.  PG&E gave the CPUC no real reason to believe it was interested in safety.

Next, the CPUC says it let PG&E slide because the CPUC didn’t see a disturbing 'trend".

If we saw a trend that gave us concerns in terms of what we are finding out there, we would take enforcement action. 

A trend? How about 410 violations in the past 6 years? Does that not constitute a "trend"? Exactly how many violations does the CPUC need?