Senator Jerry Hill proposes reform of how utility regulator operates 

Senator Jerry Hill has introduced 10 San Bruno Blast-related bills since the incident happened. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Senator Jerry Hill has introduced 10 San Bruno Blast-related bills since the incident happened.

A Peninsula state senator has introduced legislation that would require the California Public Utilities Commission to separate its judicial and prosecutorial functions in the wake of its handling of the deadly 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion.

Senate Bill 611, introduced Friday by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is a response to CPUC President Michael Peevey’s October effort to halt hearings into the blast. Those hearings, which were designed to set a fine against PG&E, were later continued after a mediator failed to produce an outcome.

At a news conference Monday, Hill called for new rules that he said would remove bias from such decisions. His plan also would call for an audit to see if the CPUC is properly overseeing specialty accounts utilities use for special projects.

“The bill codifies pre-existing legal ethics by requiring an ethical wall between the staff that prosecutes on behalf of the state and the staff that advises the PUC decision-making,” Hill said. “The bill also removes any provision that says all PUC staff work for the president and the president only. The PUC staff needs to answer to the full commission and to the people of California.”

The CPUC did not respond to requests for comment.

Hill wants to ensure the CPUC is acting in the interest of ratepayers.

“As far as I’m concerned, the PUC has two main purposes — to make sure the energy is delivered to our homes and delivered safely, and to protect our pocketbooks,” Hill said. “Sadly, it has for many years been failing us on both.”

Kathy DeRenzi agrees. Her home was damaged in the 2010 blast. She ran for her life, was separated from her family and ended up in the hospital. She said while the experience was terrifying, the information she’s learned about the regulatory agency only makes matters worse.

“It’s sickening,” she said. “We call on the governor to make changes at the top of the PUC so we can be safe.”

The 2010 blast was caused by an explosion in a 30-inch gas pipeline maintained by PG&E. It killed eight and destroyed dozens of homes.

Blast-related bills introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill:

  • AB 50: San Bruno victim tax exemption
  • AB 56: Natural gas pipeline safety reform
  • AB 1055: CPUC foundation conflict of interest
  • AB 1456: Utility safety and rate return
  • AB 1703: Disclosure of utility civil settlements
  • AB 1843: Whistle-blower protections for gas pipeline utility workers
  • AB 578: Gas pipeline safety — NTSB recommendations
  • AB 838: CPUC safety position
  • AB 861: Utility incentive compensation
  • AB 1456: Gas safety performance

Source: California Legislature

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