CALIFORNIA'S STATE ASSEMBLY UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED AB 825

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By Roy L Hales

June 6, 2015 (Sacramento) - California’s State Assembly unanimously approved AB 825, which is meant to bring increased transparency and independent oversight to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

“Newspaper headlines on a near daily basis have exposed controversies within the CPUC and highlight the pressing need for transparency and oversight over the commission,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).

This undoubtedly reflects the controversies surrounding former CPUC President Michael Peevey’s dealings with Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. Serious questions have been raised about the CPUC decision-making process and its relationships with the utilities it is regulating.

These include the secret meeting Peevey had with Southern California Edison, in 2013, regarding closure of the failed San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Though details of the $4.7 billion deal changed before it was officially “agreed upon,” the outcome of the CPUC hearings was determined in advance. The average ratepayer was expected to pay up to $1,400.00 to close the facility.

Some question whether the CPUC is continuing its’ legacy of backroom dealings with the recent approval of a 500 MW Gas Fired Plant at Carlsbad, San Diego.

AB 825 establishes a process for parties to challenge the confidentiality of documents submitted by public utility companies. The bill also calls for an Inspector General, with independent authority to investigate the CPUC, and a Public Advisor to enact transparency measures.

“This proposal makes steps toward reforming the CPUC and restoring the commission’s trust with the public,” said Rendon.

The Assemblyman has also authored AB 1023, which requires CPUC commissioners, staff, and chief administrative law judge to maintain a public log of all communications with outside parties in adjudicatory and rate-setting proceedings.

Both bills await hearings in the California senate.

Photo Credit: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station by Bill Lenner via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)