- California Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Commissioner Michael Picker as the new president of the California Public Utilities Commission. The announcement came down the afternoon of Dec. 23, the LA Times reports.
- Picker, who has spent less than a year on the powerful regulatory body, will replace embattled CPUC president Michael Peevey, who will step down Dec. 31 amid a scandal over improper communications with Pacific Gas & Electric employees.
- Brown also chose Liane Randolph, general counsel at the California Natural Resources Agency, to fill Picker's spot on the five-member CPUC.
In the face of mounting public disapproval of the state's utility regulators, California Gov. Jerry Brown has named one of his own to lead the Public Utilities Commission. Upon expected approval from the state senate, Commissioner Michael Picker, 62, will replace Michael Peevey as CPUC president when Peevey retires at the end of the year.
Picker has served on the CPUC since Jan. 2014. Before that, he was a senior adviser for renewable energy in Gov. Brown's office for five years. Brown says Picker's nomination is evidence of his administration's commitment to putting "fresh eyes" on the commission and ensuring that the state meets its goal of obtaining a third of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
But, the LA Times reports, the move may also be designed to distance Brown's government from the scandal surrounding outgoing President Peevey. In October, Peevey announced he would not seek reappointment to head the CPUC, ending a 12-year career at the helm of the commission.
Regulators and the utility industry alike hope Picker's nomination is the final chapter in a saga of scandal and intrigue at the CPUC that dates back to the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion. The blast killed eight people and leveled a neighborhood.
In the aftermath, released emails showed that PG&E executives allegedly conspired with regulators and their employees to shop for a friendly judge in the explosion case. Other emails reveal similar alleged collusion during the PG&E's last rate case.
Since the emails became public, three PG&E executives have been fired and a federal investigation has been opened into the communications. The CPUC, with a touch of irony, fined PG&E more than $1 million in November for judge shopping, and CPUC executive director Paul Clanon announced he would retire earlier this month.