- California Public Utilities Commission commissioner Mike Florio had a close relationship and potentially unethical conversations with Southern California Edison executives, new email evidence reported by U-T San Diego reports. Florio previously recused himself from deliberations about Pacific Gas & Electric over similar communications concerns.
- Florio's email history reveals a “‘regular’ Wednesday 1:30 call” with SCE officials and an interaction with one executive about a rate-setting case while it was pending, even though the SCE official asked whether they could have the interchange.
- Florio claimed that ex parte interaction were not unethical because “we’re just working out numbers on a technical level.” The CPUC is defending Florio’s interactions with SCE as “not meant to influence.”
Regulators are prohibited ethically and legally from “ex parte communications” with stakeholders during commission proceedings because decisions are required to be impartial and based entirely on public documents and testimony.
Much of Florio’s interaction with SCE officials concerned the failure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, of which the utility is 80% owner. Its shuttering, which may in part be due to SCE negligence, is costing ratepayers $3.3 billion.
A regulatory proceeding ”is a public conversation because a commissioner is a public official. And it should not be different when you are on the dais or off the dais or alone in the office or writing an email,” former Texas commissioner Karl Rabago recently told Utility Dive.
“I am not a big fan of private meetings,” former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff commented. “It ultimately cuts off others from participating and takes away transparency and openness.” Unfortunately, the price for transparency and openness is people repeating talking points during proceedings. The answer is also not “behind the scenes emails and other things between parties,” Wellinghoff added, referencing the CPUC turmoil.