Newly released emails show top California regulators communicated often and enthusiastically with executives at PG&E, as they simultaneously presided over a case to decide how much the utility should pay for a deadly explosion in a San Francisco Bay area suburb.
The City of San Bruno released emails on Monday between California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey and PG&E after suing for their release earlier this year. The PUC is charged with punishing PG&E in the wake of the 2010 pipeline blast in San Bruno that claimed eight lives.
Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill said the emails show an illegal and inappropriate relationship between the utility and the powerful state agency, and and the 7,000 emails the city of San Bruno obtained show that line was crossed many times.
“PG&E has invested millions of dollars over decades into chumming up with commissioners and their staff, rubbing elbows and all expenses paid international trips,” Hill said at a news conference. "Those emails clearly show that PG&E is now calling in those favors.”
San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane added: “In many instances these documents show that the CPUC even offers strategic advice and suggestions on how PG&E can best position itself to navigate the ongoing penalty proceeding against.”
The CPUC is supposed to be deciding the penalty PG&E should get for causing the September 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight, injured 66 and destroyed 38 homes.
In some off-the-record communications, PG&E executives called the PUC president by first name, “Mike” … and the e-mails show there were often dinner meetings between the two entities. One PG&E email was signed off with a “Love You.”
PG&E President Chris Johns said the company is required to communicate regularly with the commission. “We will review the emails involved in this matter to ensure that this high standard was upheld," he said. "If it was not, we will take appropriate action.”
In a statement, the CPUC added: "The CPUC remains focused on obtaining from its Administrative Law Judges the penalty recommendation against PG&E for the tragic pipeline rupture in San Bruno, and on improving safety in all of the industries the CPUC regulates. The CPUC takes seriously all allegations of bias and rule violations and will evaluate the Motions when filed by the City of San Bruno, including providing an opportunity for parties to comment."
Among other things, Ruane, Hills and others are calling for the Peevey's resignation, along with other high level executives. And they're demanding stiff penalties be levied against PG&E for illegally influencing the outcome of investigations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.