Peevey in their pocket

At CPUC, former commissioner communicated regularly with Edison

Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for a dozen years, who retired at the end of 2014, kept up a steady, cozy email dialogue with officials of Southern California Edison while he was in office. Indeed, copies of those emails show that Edison was asking for Peevey's alleged wisdom on a number of questions — particularly, how to handle public relations problems. Such communication is generally considered improper.

Peevey had been president of Edison and its parent for less than three years, leaving in 1993 when he was in his mid 50s. He then joined a public relations firm, which Edison hired. He was named to head the CPUC in 2002, when utilities complained to then-governor Gray Davis that the then-president, Loretta Lynch, was too kind to consumers and too rough on utilities. Since then, Peevey has made sure that the California publicly held utilities rack up fat profits at the expense of consumers. Customers of Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and Pacific Gas & Electric pay rates that are far higher than almost all other electric utilities in the United States.

On May 14 of last year, San Diego attorney Mike Aguirre was complaining about the deal by which ratepayers will be stuck with $3.3 billion in charges as a result of the closing of the San Onofre nuclear plant, of which Edison is the primary owner. (San Diego Gas & Electric has a smaller percentage.) In a now famous confrontation, Aguirre asked Peevey if he had consulted Edison officials about the $3.3 billion gift to utilities. In an outburst that immediately went viral on the web, Peevey growled, "I'm not here to answer your goddamn questions. Now shut up! Shut up!"

Now we know why Peevey blew his stack. He had been giving advice sub rosa to officials at his former company — definitely inappropriate and improper. Aguirre's law partner, Maria Severson, filed a California Public Records Act request for copies of communications between Peevey and his Edison chums. After a delay of more than three months — and Severson's threat to file a lawsuit to force compliance — she got an initial batch on Saturday, January 3.

The Peevey/Edison relationship is snug indeed. Example: Ron Litzinger, executive vice president of Edison's parent, "has Peevey's cell number and they talk on weekends," says Severson.

A Los Angeles Times writer had penned a critical column about Edison and San Onofre. Janet Clayton, Edison's senior vice president of communications, wrote a response to be published in the paper. It would be in Litzinger's name. "You might want to give the CPUC president [Peevey] a heads up," Clayton wrote to Litzinger. He called Peevey for advice on how to handle the situation. Litzinger and Peevey had a phone conversation about responding to the Times article. Shortly, Litzinger emailed Peevey, gushing, "Thanks for your insights today on the call — very helpful."

On another occasion, Les Starck, senior vice president of regulatory policy and affairs, consulted Peevey on a complaint from a customer who had the misfortune of living very close to an Edison tower. Edison penned a curt reply that was sent to Peevey before it went out. Peevey called it "a brush-off…. Showing some compassion and compensation in individual cases may be the better approach." Asking the president of the CPUC how to respond to a customer complaint is picayune-plus.

Much of Peevey's communication was with Bruce Foster, then a senior vice president of Southern California Edison. He had sent Peevey a document on 2010 tax changes and asked him to put the matter on hold. Peevey read the document and put the matter on hold for two weeks.

Edison officials had quick access to Peevey. In February of 2011, Foster was down in the lobby with some colleagues. He flashed Peevey, "If you are free would like to talk to you. We are in the lobby." Peevey replied, "Can you make it only the two of us?" Peevey would meet with Edison officials on short notice — even in London. One time Foster emailed Peevey: "We are at the bar at the Westin if you are staying come by." Another time, Peevey said he would skip a lunch with other commissioners so he could dine with an Edison lobbyist. In most cases, Edison brass addressed Peevey as "Mike" — not the formal "Commissioner Peevey."

And so the often-sycophantic emails continued. Says Severson, "Edison sends filings and press relations to the commisssioners directly, and sends a separate one to Peevey. Lunches and dinners galore — in posh restaurants, private clubs, and luxury destinations on three continents. Peevey gives advice on how to handle claims [and] promises to hold proceedings at Edison's request."

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CPUC, a division of California Edison.

It's not that some officials are corrupt, wink-wink, it's just that they're so cheap to buy. Or will some enterprising financial reporter root out a bigger payday?

MichaelValentine: As has been reported on this blog, there is a huge controversy going on in Northern California. Peevey, commissioner Mike Florio, and other CPUC officials clearly were helping Pacific Gas & Electric get off with a lesser fine for its role in the tragic 2010 San Bruno gas pipe explosion.

The subject in that episode has been Peevey's and the commission's revolting coziness with PG&E. Now it appears the relationship with Southern California Edison, Peevey's former company, may have been even cozier. This would have affected decisions on San Onofre. There was also influence-peddling in decisions on the 2007 San Diego fires, caused greatly by SDG&E's negligence. Best, Don Bauder

Utterly shameless. It seems rules don't apply once you reach a certain level.

Easy to see how people can get discouraged and lose faith in government and officials and all those people who keep telling everyone else to obey the law. Looks like some people get to pick and choose to their heart's content.

eastlaker: Yes, utterly shameless. And what is equally shameless is that Michael Picker, a long-time flack and political campaign adviser who has taken over for the retiring Peevey, stated publicly that he is not worried about the CPUC's coziness with PG&E. This was reported by KQED, the public radio station in Northern California. He stated that to a KQED reporter.

If Picker is not worried about the CPUC's coziness with utilities, there should be a public movement to force him to resign. Politicians and government officials in Northern California are appalled by Picker's statement. Best, Don Bauder

How much was Peevey "compensated" for his advice ?

Murphyjunkk: If there was such compensation, it would have been under the table -- perhaps through an offshore entity. But I think Peevey's counsel was probably free -- just another favor for his close buddies at Edison. Of course, he did a lot of globetrotting, feasted sumptuously, and guzzled a lot of wine at utilities' expense.

Keep in mind that the emails Severson received constituted only an initial batch -- probably a small fraction of the actual communications. She expects to get more. Best, Don Bauder

Peevey is and was a disgrace and newly-inaugurated Governor Jerry Brown ought to be ashamed for having kept this arrogant hack at the head of the CPUC for such a long time. It's one of several reasons I didn't vote for the Governor last Fall. Foot-in-mouth Picker will be an improvement, but not by much. Let us hope Aguirre and Severson will carry on and prevail, even if it takes years.

monaghan: I don't know if Picker will be an improvement. He has stated that he is not bothered by the cozy relationship between the CPUC and PG&E, despite all the email evidence of staggering corruption. Best, Don Bauder

the governor seems to inhaled a lot of lint while in his supporters pockets.

Murphyjunkk: Much of the blame goes to Gov. Brown. He knew all about the PG&E scandal but appointed a Peevey clone to the top job. Best, Don Bauder

Wabbitsd: She was replaced in 2002 for leaning too far in favor of ratepayers, and not kissing the shoes of the utilities. She would be excellent in the job but will not be appointed. Best, Don Bauder

Don, Thanks for this story.

I find it amusing that the CPUC could not provide the Peevey emails until after Peevey had officially left the CPUC.

I am really thankful to Mike Aguirre and Maria Severson for their work in exposing Peevey.

Things should get interesting in Feb 2015, when PG&E releases 65,000 emails.

mikeknell: I agree that Severson and Aguirre have done yeoman work -- excellent sleuthing without compensation. As to those 65,000 emails: they will be released to the CPUC, not the public. They could be heavily redacted by the time the public sees them. The emails Severson received were redacted in parts. Best, Don Bauder

As usual, you know the details better than me.

mikeknell: I don't know about that. You know a lot about the CPUC's dubious ways. Best, Don Bauder

Great article, Don - please keep them coming, especially pertaining to CPUC corruption and collusion with the utilities they are supposed to be regulating! I can tell you assuredly that Californians have only seen the tip of the iceberg with Peevey's long legacy of corrupt conduct, giving the shaft to the consumers. For instance, the highly dangerous new "smart" utility meters forced on all buildings in San Diego County for the past four (+) years, have not been withdrawn, not been banned ... never checked out for health and safety. Peevey has also publicly screamed "Shut up!" to those who came to tell him about their dire physical reactions to smart meters during a CPUC meeting about a year ago. I have the video of this occurring on our website, "CPUC’s Peevey Gets “Peeved” – Yells “Shut Up”, Tries to Stifle Free Speech" http://www.electrosmogprevention.org/stop-ca-smart-meter-news/president-peevey-cpuc-yells-shut-up-at-activists-tries-to-stifle-free-speech/.

Under Peevey's reign of terror at the CPUC, this was (and still is) forbidden to be considered in smart meter proceedings - even proceedings considering whether smart meter opt-out fees are unjust due to medical needs to avoid the jarring, pulsed microwave radiation emitting from these meters every second, round the clock. Peevey and his minions (administrative law judges in the pockets of the utilities - usually who'd also worked for them or Peevey in the past) made sure that "health and safety were not within the scope" of each smart meter / smart grid proceeding. So no matter how many tens of thousands of letters and complaints were sent to the CPUC, no matter how many people made the long trip to San Francisco for four years (or five) to testify in the one minute given, in front of Peevey and the other band of heartless commissioners, that they were suffering severe ill effects from the smart meters, nothing substantial was done. Now, we have people who are homeless, very ill, out of work, totally disabled and totally unable to live in their own homes or even in communities with smart meters, due to their extreme reactions to the strong, pulsed radiation. Others go on, oblivious to the cause, experiencing ill effects of radiation poisoning, not connecting it to the installation of smart meters. Newborns are subjected to these dangerous smart meters, at very close range, as at my neighbors' home. It is appalling that, even with the advisement of renowned scientists and the WHO's determination that this radiation is a Class 2B carcinogen, Peevey ignored the dangers and promoted the smart grid and smart meters to be forced on the public. They need to be banned and removed, every one of them, for they are a menace to the health of all Californians. Just before he left, Peevey prematurely closed a stalled smart meter opt-out proceeding that examined the fees - this is a story in itself. www.electrosmogprevention.org

Susan B: I recommend that everyone listen in to Peevey shouting "Shut up." The shout occurs late in the video, but it is a good idea to listen to what the anti-smart meter people have to say prior to Peevey's crude outburst. Those people make excellent points.

Yes, Peevey once again proved he was not fit for a job that requires a public agency to listen to the public. He is gone, but since his replacement doesn't see any problem with the obvious CPUC corruption in the San Bruno case, the future looks grim. The utilities will get their fat profits and the ratepayers will get the shaft. Best, Don Bauder

NEW REPORT WARNS OF NUCLEAR WASTE DANGERS. Today (January 8) at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Coast Time, the San Diego law firm of Aguirre & Severson will release a 40-page white paper meant to alert Michael Picker, the new president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) of the corruption at the agency. (Upon assuming the presidency, Picker told a radio station that he was not concerned about unethical and possibly illegal emails showing that CPUC officials have been working behind the scenes to make sure that Pacific Gas & Electric isn't fined heavily for its role in the disastrous San Bruno explosion of 2010. After Picker made the statement, people in Northern California were stunned.)

Much of what is in the report has been covered on this blog and in Reader columns. However, the paper sounds an alarm that should be discussed more widely. Tons of nuclear waste will be stored indefinitely at the site of the now-shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant. High radiation levels from such waste can be hazardous to humans and other life forms, says the white paper. High radiation levels that can be fatal can result from this storage of nuclear waste, notes the paper.

The paper will be available at www.amslawyers.com. Best, Don Bauder

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