The secret life of Michael Peevey - Page 2

California's top energy regulator rolls with power company executives behind the scenes

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Michael Peevey, California's top utility regulator, attended several trips last year with utility executives.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY LUKE THOMAS


THE BUDDY SYSTEM

CFEE isn't the only nonprofit that regularly flies Peevey overseas for green travel tours with high-ranking utility executives, and the 12 days he spent in Spain wasn't the only time he spent away from official duties and in the company of the corporations his commission regulates.

These controversial getaways are just a small part of Peevey's involvement with private-sector interests. He also chairs the board of a nonprofit investment fund created as part of a $30 million settlement agreement with PG&E. Called the California Clean Energy Fund, it funnels money into private venture-capital funds that invest in green start-ups, plus a few companies in the fossil-fuel sector.

While legislators have voiced frustration that lax CPUC oversight of PG&E on pipeline-safety issues opened the door to disaster in San Bruno, inside observers are critical of the outright favors Peevey has granted utilities, such as guaranteeing an unprecedented, higher-than-ever profit margin for PG&E as part of the company's 2004 bankruptcy settlement.

The CPUC is set up to perform as a watchdog agency, yet social and professional ties running deep within California's insular energy community mean regulators sometimes run in the same circles as the executives who answer to them, making for cozier relationships than the general public might anticipate. It's an old-fashioned insider game that one longtime observer wryly characterizes as "the buddy system." But the buddy system can bring consequences.

As the public face of the CPUC, Peevey repeatedly has been thrust into the spotlight. He has absorbed advocates' concerns about pipeline safety, rising electricity rates, SmartMeters, missed targets for energy efficiency, and municipalities' David-vs.-Goliath battles with PG&E to implement community choice aggregation (CCA), to name a few. He's a magnet for public scrutiny while occupying the center seat at commission meetings, but Peevey's behind-the-scenes engagements with private-sector organizations bent on shaping statewide energy policy demonstrate how power is wielded in California's energy world, a system in which regulators seem to be partnering with utilities rather than policing them.

Based at Pier 35 in San Francisco, CFEE's board of directors is composed of a small group of officers, plus a long list of members who hail from some of the most prominent businesses nationwide. Shell, Chevron, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, AT&T, and PG&E all hold positions on CFEE's membership board, and each entity chips in to fund the foundation's activities and travel excursions.

The group also includes representatives from labor organizations like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and mainstream environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council. Among the emeritus members of CFEE's governing board are some high-ranking figures, such as CIA director-turned-Pentagon boss Leon Panetta. CFEE received $45,000 in donations from PG&E in 2009 (the most recent year available) and was granted similar amounts in prior years.

CFEE spokesperson P.J. Johnston, the son of former state senator and CFEE officer Patrick Johnston and the press secretary under former Mayor Willie Brown, described the trips as valuable opportunities for top-level stakeholders to gain insight on best practices and engage in noncombative dialogue on key issues.

"The idea for us was that it made sense to have someplace where it was nonconfrontational to engage in policy, work-type discussions," Johnston explained. He added that the trips are "all about policy, on the 30,000-foot level," and emphasized that discussions aren't about specific decisions pending before the CPUC.

Comments

Great job Rebecca-now we know how it why there are no consequences to blowing up a neighborhood.

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

The Sacramento Bee did an article on energy regulators/energy company junkets back in 2009 that is also worth a look.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2011 @ 11:56 am

Totally disgusted - Peevey has to be ousted, Governor Brown! Corruption cannot be tolerated. Peevey, politician wife, SCE, lavish trips, coddling utilities ... this is like a corrupt third world dictatorship...Peevey is a national embarassment.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2011 @ 11:22 am

1. Fire this worthless piece of garbage now, along with Richard Clark. They're either corrupt, or incompetent, or both. In any case, they need to go now.

2. Investigate both for corruption

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

1. WIRELESS SMART METERS – 100 TIMES MORE RADIATION THAN CELL PHONES.
Video Interview: Nuclear Scientist, Daniel Hirsch, (5 minutes: 38 seconds).
http://stopsmartmeters.org/2011/04/20/daniel-hirsch-on-ccsts-fuzzy-math/

2. WIRELESS SMART METERS – CANCER, NERVOUS SYSTEM DAMAGE, ADVERSE REPRODUCTION AFFECTS.
Video Interview: Dr. Carpenter, New York Public Health Department, Dean of Public Health, (2 minutes: 23 seconds).
http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=3946

3. THE KAROLINSKA INSTITUTE IN STOCKHOLM (the University that gives the Nobel Prizes) ISSUES GLOBAL HEALTH WARNING AGAINST WIRELESS SMART METERS.
2-page Press Release:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/48148346/Karolinska-Institute-Press-Release

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2011 @ 11:03 pm

your links about smart meters are a hoax. some nuts print a paper and you feel like smart meters are the end of the world.

get a life you mis-informed person.

they didn't issue a warning agaist smart meters in the report- they said 4 billion earthlings are affectd by radio waves- micro waves, etc. BFD. you probably dictated this on your cell phone.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2011 @ 7:40 am

No, actually the dangers of radio emissions are more and more being recognized as quite real. Europe is already beginning to restrict cell phone towers and emissions because of this.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 19, 2011 @ 10:06 am

Thanks for this, hope you will follow-up with a story on what power the CPUC has and how little recourse the public has. The control is almost absolute, but the oversight is close to zero.

This is why the toxic plume from Hinkley CA (Erin Brockovich) continues to grow and spread 20 years later. And, why utilities are seeking to evade responsibilities for Sierra wildfires caused by lack of power line maintenance. And, why on a Christmas morning in Rancho Cordova, a faulty gas connection critically burned and killed a family. Why underground vaults in San Francisco have been exploding for years, flinging manhole covers into the surrounding community. (The 'fix': put a spring on the cover because the explosions are sure to continue...) Why residents living around the Tesoro plant so often 'shelter in place'. Why funds meant to address flawed gas pipes were not used for that purpose. And why we have billions wasted on a flawed SmartMeter rollout that lacks complete R&D.

The CPUC licenses our nuclear power plants; not a reassuring thought!

Posted by Guest on May. 30, 2011 @ 11:27 am

I appreciate this in-depth work on exposing the extent of the CPUC
President's coziness with those he is expected to regulate. Hopefully
it will be widely read and will hasten Mr. Peevey's departure and
assist in the appointing of responsible new leadership.

PG&E's SmartMeter debacle is a perfect example of a misguided, large-
scale industry experiment that has escaped much-needed regulation.
The serious health effects of the meters' wireless technology has
already ruined lives, leaving sensitive individuals sick, homeless, unable to
work and without recourse. That's in addition to the billing and
privacy issues, fire risk and real dangers of SmartGrid security
violation.

Keep up the good work!

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

I am shocked about this illuminating news about Michael Peevey!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 21, 2011 @ 8:27 pm

Resistance among Californian utilities to residential feed in tariffs reveals a protectionist attitude not even seen in Europe's energy industry these days…
http://bit.ly/q6XTDI

Posted by Guest on Jul. 28, 2011 @ 9:40 am