The California Public Utilities Commission would be overhauled under a bill now in the state Legislature. The measure passed an Assembly committee today on a bi-partisan vote. It would reduce the power of the PUC president. It would also create a more robust process to determine whether commissioners are biased in cases they might consider.
The measure would also establish new rules for communication between the PUC and the utilities it regulates. Mindy Spatt is with The Utility Reform Network, which sponsored the bill. She says a recent report from the Strumwasser & Woocher law firm found improper communication to be a problem.
"This report, which was commissioned by the Public Utilities Commission itself, found that too often important decisions are being made in these back door meetings between utilities and commissioners," she says.
The report and the bill follow the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people. A resulting lawsuit forced the PUC to release thousands of communications which showed private conversations with Pacific Gas & Electric.