Will California PUC President Michael Peevey get a record third term?
Legislators, lobbyists and Capitol staffers who deal with energy policy are buzzing about whether Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey will get a record third term.
Peevey, 76, is a former president of Southern California Edison Co. He was first named to the commission in December 2002 by then-Gov. Gray Davis. The appointment came as the state was confronting the ill effects of a failed electricity deregulation law and power blackouts. The crisis helped drive Davis from office in a recall.
After the emergency subsided, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008 reappointed Peevey for another six-year term. His term expires at year’s end.
Since then, Peevey has become one of California’s most powerful and controversial figures, wielding great influence over energy, telecommunications and transportation issues that affect the pocketbooks and safety of tens of millions of people. He operates from PUC headquarters in San Francisco, largely unknown to the public he serves. The job pays up to $136,144 a year.
Supporters call him a politically savvy, hands-on leader who’s promoted wind and solar power, energy efficiency and the fight against climate change. They also praise him for working to lessen the “digital divide” between upper- and lower-income communities and embracing new technology, such as voice-over-Internet phones and ride-sharing.
Critics, both in and out of government, lambaste Peevey, saying he’s too close to utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Edison. They also say he ignored safety concerns before a fatal gas transmission line explosion in 2010 that leveled a neighborhood in the Bay Area city of San Bruno. And they say he dominates his four PUC colleagues.
Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t saying whether he’ll renominate Peevey. The governor recently told the San Jose Mercury News that Peevey is “a strong force.... I know there’s been a lot of ink poured out on this topic, but I would say he gets things done.”
Power industry and consumer groups are split.
“My speculation is he will be reappointed,” said Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of the Independent Energy Producers Assn. “My sense is that the governor respects his views and listens to him.”
Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, which advocates for ratepayers before the PUC, thinks differently. “He has been involved in so much controversy,” he said. “I’d be surprised if he got reappointed.”
California transportation officials have been fending off criticism about construction defects on the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge since it opened a year ago. Now, they can brag a little.
The bridge was just listed as one of America’s top 10 transportation projects by the American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials. But that’s not all. Even new truck scales on Interstate 80 east of Oakland recently won an award for innovation from the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.
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