Brown’s PUC Overhaul More Cosmetic Than Substance

Published on

Governor Brown and legislative leaders announced a series of agreed-upon reforms to target the corruption that's haunted the Public Utilities Comission during the Brown-era and immediately prior to it. 
There are some substantive changes on the list that move the ball foward for rooting out the next corruption scandal and rectifying the worst abuses of the PUC under PUC President Michael Peevey, who is under criminal investigation for his abuse of power. For example, judicial review of the Public Records Act denials, squaring the intervenor system with standards at other agencies, and cleaning up ex-parte rules will help avert another corruption scandal like the one that has engulfed Brown's PUC.  Yet there's still no Superior Court review of other PUC decisions.
Nothing on the list of reforms is likely to upset the three investor-owned utilities in the state. That's because the rules contain no fundamental change in the balance of power, just more sunshine to put light on future corruption.
Governor Brown knew he had a big stain on his legacy and this reform package is an attempt to do the wash. The problem is the consequences of the last  decade-plus of corruption under Peevey at the PUC is far greater than dirty laundry: ratepayers taking a back seat to investors under rules changes in electricity procurements, build-outs and ratepayer billing that are unaddressed.  In other words, there's little to nothing in these PUC reforms to make sure ratepayers pay less and investors don't charge too much, or that ratepayers' interest come first.
What's needed is a rollback of the rules of electricity procurement, purchasing and billing under the Peevey era. For example, investor-owned utilities should have to prove projects are "used and useful" before billing ratepayers again.  Utilities, that supply demand, should not be determining future electricity demand. That should be farmed to independent experts. 
Consumers need a fundamental rewrite in the balance of power between ratepayers and utlities, and this isn't that.
Perhaps the $5,922,963  the major investor-owned utilities, plus largest electric power plant developers,  gave to Brown’s gubernatorial campaigns, ballot initiatives, favorite causes, and to the California Democratic Party, and Democratic State Central Committee, since 2010 had something to do with this. Or the fact that Kathleen Brown, the Gov's sis, is on the board of SEMPRA, one of three major investor-owned utilities. 
Utility experts say that some of the rule changes make it even easier for utilities to get over, for example being able to rely on shoddy info provided by phony academics paid for by the utilties to make back room deals.
Like most of what the Gov and legislature agree to, this is a sausuage, blood sausage, and in that it's not going to cure the public's hunger for a real overhaul.

Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

Latest Videos

Latest Releases

In The News

Latest Report

Support Consumer Watchdog

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, press releases and special reports.

More Releases