State Rep. Jerry Hill is demanding that the head of California’s utility watchdog step down from his role overseeing an investigation of the San Bruno pipeline disaster, saying the inspector has a paltry history of enforcing rules for PG&E.
Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, angered many last week when he said he would take the lead into determining how much PG&E should be fined for the pipeline blast that killed eight people and injured 38 more in 2010.
The CPUC has been blistered with criticism that its lax oversight and cozy relationship with PG&E resulting in crumbling industry standards for pipeline safety. Peevey has conceded that the CPUC drifted into a “culture of complacency” regarding its regulation of the private utility giant.
Hill, whose district includes San Bruno, personally addressed Peevey at a CPUC meeting on Wednesday, asking the commission president to step down from the inquest.
“I find it offensive that someone so responsible for the culture that contributed to the San Bruno disaster would take it upon himself to oversee these proceedings,” said Hill.
On Tuesday, Peevey announced that fellow CPUC commissioner Mike Florio, an expert on pipeline safety, would be a co-inspector in the investigation.
However, Hill called that appointment a “smokescreen,” that “didn’t make any sense,” because it was clear that Peevey would still be the lead inspector.
Hill said he spoke recently with Gov. Jerry Brown about removing Peevey, and that his concerns were noted during the conversation. Peevey did not respond to Hill’s demands at the CPUC meeting Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, State Sen. Leland Yee said he will introduce “accountability” legislation designed to ensure that CPUC investigation inspectors are not appointed solely by the agency’s president. Under Yee’s proposal, inspectors would need approval of a majority of the agency’s board.