State Senate panel launches inquiry into PUC's oversight of utilities

Already under investigation by state and federal law enforcement officials, cozy relations between the Public Utility Commission and the state's investor-owned electricity and natural gas companies are getting more attention in Sacramento.

The state Senate's Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee announced plans for three days of public hearings next month to look at the PUC's overall operations.


"It is important to assess practices to promote compliance with existing state laws to ensure that safety, reliability and reasonable rates are a top priority for the PUC," said committee Chairman Ben Hueso (D-San Diego).

Next Tuesday, the first session will have special emphasis on a large number of emails and other communications between former President Michael Peevey and top commission staff with executives at the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison Co.

A March 11 hearing is expected to dive more deeply into the "possible inappropriate communications," Hueso's office said in a statement.

A third, March 17 hearing will concentrate on safety issues, including improvements to natural gas distribution lines statewide since the fatal 2010 explosion in the Bay Area city of San Bruno.

The state Assembly's Utilities and Commerce Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for March 16.


Twitter: @MarcLifsher