- California's Senate last week passed a measure designed to bring more transparency to the state's Public Utilities Commission, including requirements to disclose any ex parte communications and for violations of those rules to be potentially prosecuted.
- The San Francisco Chronicle reports Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is expected to sign the measure despite vetoing a package of bills last year that had similar aims.
- The California Public Utilities Commission has been under scrutiny since the San Bruno pipeline blast in 2010, when its dealings with Pacific Gas & Electric prompted many to say the regulatory-entity relationship had gotten too cozy.
Gov. Brown could make good on a promise from last year, when he vowed to work with lawmakers on reforming the CPUC while simultaneously vetoing a package of bills that would have accomplished the goal. But he stressed his objections had to do with the structure and not the reforms, saying technical issues with the bills led him to doubt they could be implemented.
The bill is the result of a settlement struck earlier this summer when Brown announced a broad package of transparency reforms. At the time, his office said the changes aim to reform ex parte rules at the CPUC "to establish a more ethical environment that is fair to all parties, while providing flexibility for entities to contact their appointed officials."
Calls to reform the CPUC gained traction after Former CPUC chair Michael Peevey has faced allegations of improper communications between himself and PG&E, following the disaster that killed eight people. It ultimately led him to announce he would not seek reappointment two years ago. PG&E ultimately fired three executives, after emails appeared to show them attempting to gain a favorable administrative law judge in a rate case.
The state is also conducting a criminal investigation into his tenure following revelations last year that the regulator met secretly in Warsaw, Poland with officials from Southern California Edison, related to settlements surrounding the close of the San Onofre nuclear facility and his attempts to secure funding for research at UCLA.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the measure would specifically prohibit "judge shopping," and attached a $50,00 fee for violations. More detail would also have to be disclosed about what is said in ex parte meetings. Officials also said they wanted to increase the CPUC's focus and expertise by "relocating responsibilities and making logistical changes that improve the commission's ability to function."