Michael Peevey, a former president of Southern California Edison Co. and an advisor to Gov. Gray Davis during the energy crisis, was confirmed by the Senate on Monday to a six-year term on the state Public Utilities Commission.
On a 32-3 vote, the Senate rejected a Republican charge that Peevey was not qualified to serve as the chief regulator of private utilities because he brought an alleged pro-industry bias and a conflict of interest to the post.
The charges were leveled by Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) and rebutted by Senate Leader John L. Burton (D-San Francisco) and Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena). Scott accused McClintock of using Peevey's previous affiliation with Edison as a "guilt by association" tactic to deny confirmation.
Davis first appointed Peevey to the commission one year ago. The governor promoted him to president of the commission Dec. 31. In the process, the governor demoted Loretta Lynch, who had confronted the utilities and the Davis administration at the peak of the energy crisis in 2001.
Among a variety of posts, Peevey, a former labor union economist, served as president of the Edison utility company and Edison International, its parent organization, from 1990 through 1993.
McClintock argued that the PUC should operate as a defender of ratepayers, but that Peevey, as commissioner, could not shake off what he termed a pro-industry bias. McClintock also said that his research indicated that Peevey had not disposed of substantial amounts of stock in utilities, which would violate conflict of interest laws.
PUC spokeswoman Terrie Prospect denied that Peevey still had utility investments.