Sacramento, CA… Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee, today commended the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for making meaningful progress on reforms since he and his fellow Committee members held oversight hearings in 2015 to examine the agency’s operations. The CPUC is responsible for regulating California’s private for-profit water, phone, electric, and gas utilities – including San Diego Gas and Electric – as well as various transportation service providers. Current CPUC President Michael Picker took over as head of the agency in January of 2015.
“President Picker came in front of our Committee last year and said he was committed to turning things around at the CPUC,” said Senator Hueso. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but I am pleased with progress made to date. Many of the reforms implemented by the Commission over the course of the last year were in direct response to criticism leveled by our Committee members. It is gratifying to see an agency take such criticism to heart and follow through with meaningful change.”
Among the important reform measures the CPUC enacted in 2015, Senator Hueso noted the creation of an Internal Audit Unit, greater Commissioner engagement in administrative oversight, the development of an organization-wide strategic plan, and a new regulatory compliance tracking database. According to the CPUC’s new Annual Report released today, the Commission in 2015 adopted 584 formal decisions on energy, water, safety, telecommunications, and transportation matters, and held 307 days of evidentiary hearings to gather factual evidence from parties to proceedings, as well as input from the public.
“What is important now is to keep the momentum going,” said Senator Hueso. “Senator Leno and I have co-authored SB 215 this year, which would strengthen CPUC oversight and accountability by overhauling rules governing communications between the agency and the companies it regulates. We hope to work with the Commission, the Governor, and all interested stakeholders to make our bill as strong as it can be.”
SB 215 is a follow-up measure to SB 660, which was vetoed by Governor Brown last year, and has been revised to address several of the points in the Governor’s veto message. SB 215 was unanimously approved by the State Senate last Tuesday, January 26th, and is currently pending referral to a policy committee in the State Assembly.
“The goal is to have a CPUC that we can trust to fulfill its mission, which is to ensure safe and reliable service at just and reasonable rates,” Hueso added. “We need the Commission to succeed in order for California to succeed. The Legislature, the Governor, and the CPUC must be partners to ensure we improve the agency’s performance, protect Californians from harm and implement groundbreaking policies, especially the aggressive renewable energy and energy efficiency goals enacted last year by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León’s SB 350.”
The Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee will hold a follow-up hearing this spring to further examine recent CPUC reforms and help orient the Commission toward improved operations in the year ahead. The Committee will give special attention to what role the CPUC can play in helping prevent future gas leaks like the one at SoCalGas’s Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch.