CPUC's new leader draws fire for deploying "half-measures"
against unlawful activity in his administration.
Public Advocates call on President Picker to avoid the continuation of "pause and delay" cover-up strategies at the California Public Utilities Commission.
DATELINE SAN DIEGO CALIFORNIA -- January 15, 2015, 5:45 PM
Today, Michael Picker is drawing fire from public advocates after issuing what critics are calling an inadequate first public statement as the incoming president of CPUC.
The advocates are calling on President Picker to conduct a comprehensive and legitimate internal investigation to hold CPUC employees accountable for breaking the rules. .
"Today's speech shows Mr. Picker has a fundamental misunderstanding of his duty to ensure reasonable rates. as a utility regulator" says San DIego attorney Mike Aguirre.
Picker now runs CPUC, the California Public Utilities Commission. As California's largest bureaucracy, CPUC is responsible for
approving complicated rate increase on behalf of California's largest investor owned monopolies. As the result of these CPUC-sanctioned rate-approvals, the cost of electricity at investor-owned utilities are nearly twice as high as comparable publicly owned monopolies. In addition, under CPUC leadership, these investor-owned utilities charge the highest rates in the contiguous USA.
Picker's predecessor, Michael Peevey, was ousted from CPUC after it was announced that the agency is under criminal investigation. Numerous incriminating internal emails have been made public that suggest top CPUC officials engaged in judge-shopping and rate-fixing schemes; holding secret meetings with utility executives for the purposes of thwarting investigations into wrongdoing; minimizing CPUC fines; and imposing higher rates on consumers in order to offset the impact of those fines on investor profits.
Advocates Aguirre and Severson are recommending that Picker restore credibility to the Commission by honoring the CPUC's objective of protecting ratepayers.
What we are seeing," says Aguirre, "is a series of half measures and half-hearted reforms that will do nothing to root out the cancer of corruption at CPUC. Simply announcing that the Commission will comply with a criminal investigation and hiring an attorney to suggest best practices is not enough. CPUC must initiate a full scale independent internal investigation of its own malfeasance" says Aguirre.
"Forming a do-nothing committee and do-nothing public meetings with CPUC Commissioners isn't a solution to the problem of corruption," says attorney Maria Severson.
"This is California's most powerful bureaucracy, and we need more than vague assurances and bureaucratic half measures to restore integrity and public trust."
Mr. Picker's first public comments from today's public meeting are attached. For background, or to arrange an interview with investigators Maria Severson or Mike Aguirre, please contact Charles Langley at (858) 752-4600.