- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed six bills Friday that were part of a widespread legislative effort to curb corruption at the state's utility regulatory agency. The bills called for more transparency and public access, and were unanimously approved by the Legislature before awaiting the governor's signature, the Sacramento Bee reports.
- If passed, the bills would have limited back-channel communications between regulators and utilities, appointed an inspector general within the State Auditor's office to oversee the CPUC, and require legislative review if the agency hired outside counsel for a criminal investigation.
- While Brown supported many of the measures, he questioned whether or not they could be carried out. The governor is directing his office to work with the lawmakers who authored the reforms to ensure "the Commission receives the necessary resources to implement them swiftly and effectively."
California's utility regulatory agency has been under fire due to claims of improper relationships with the utilities it oversees after a release of emails last year unveiled secret dealings between former commission President Michael Peevey and PG&E, the state's largest utility. The emails followed a 2010 gas line explosion that killed eight people and flattened a neighborhood in San Bruno, and led to Peevey stepping down last year.
A slew of bills aimed at mopping up the agency were unanimously passed by the legislature, but failed to satisfy Gov. Jerry Brown. Though he said he supported the reforms, he cited complicated technical and conflicting "issues" obstructing implementation.
“Taken together there are various technical and conflicting issues that make the over fifty proposed reforms unworkable,” he wrote in his veto messages. “Some prudent prioritization is needed ... I am directing my office to work with the authors on drafting these reforms and to ensure the Commission receives the necessary resources to implement them swiftly and effectively."
Lawmakers who penned the bills expressed disappointment in the governor's move. Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D), author of three of the bills, said in a statement that “we need to rebuild the public’s trust in their government. Each and every day dysfunction continues at the CPUC, that trust erodes.”
In a new move, the CPUC had launched its own probe into PG&E's company culture in August, though the state attorney general's office said the agency failed to respond to a search warrant. The CPUC's investigation came after its landmark ruling in April that leveled the largest regulatory fine in the state's history ($1.6 billion) for violating federal and state pipeline standards linked to the San Bruno explosion.