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California Political Watchdog Still Investigating Backdoor San Bruno Settlement Talks

cbcastro / Flickr

cbcastro / Flickr

The state’s political watchdog is investigating whether Susan Kennedy, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, violated rules when she acted as a go-between for PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission.

Capital Public Radio reviewed a California Public Records Act by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) from August of this year, which requested all communications between Kennedy, her business and consulting firms, and seven California Public Utilities Commission officials, dating back to 2012.

According to newly released email records, Kennedy engaged in secret talks with individuals at the CPUC during her work for PG&E. In 2015, the CPUC eventually fined PG&E 1.6 billion for the September 2010 natural gas pipeline blast in San Bruno that killed eight people.

In March of this year, PG&E also agreed to pay $86.5 million, part of a settlement agreement to quell accusations of improper communications with state regulators.

Mindy Spatt with The Utilities Reform Network (TURN), who helped negotiate this settlement, criticized PG&E for revealing these Kennedy emails now, “just at this point when they are about to pay these penalties, which will be credited to gas customers.”

Her organization is asking the CPUC to investigate the new emails in the FPPC’s public-records request. The commission has not said if it will.

A CPUC spokeswoman says it is cooperating with the FPPC investigation. "Anyone can make allegations to the FPPC, and the FPPC has a responsibility to investigate the veracity of the claim,” the spokesman said.

A spokesperson with the FPPC confirmed the investigation, but would not discuss any details.

In a court briefing, PG&E claims there is nothing new in the emails.

A Kennedy representative says any allegations that her actions were illegal is inaccurate and that if she did not report her contacts with the CPUC, then she, at worst, violated state rules. That violation could be subject to an administrative sanction.


Clarification: This story has been updated from its original version. 

Bob Moffitt

Sacramento Region Reporter

Bob reports on all things northern California and Nevada. His coverage of police technology, local athletes, and the environment has won a regional Associated Press and several Edward R. Murrow awards.   Read Full Bio 

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