Letter to TURN

 

June 2, 2015

 

Mark W. Toney, Ph.D.

Executive Director

TURN—The Utility Reform Network

785 Market St., Suite 1400

San Francisco, CA 94103

 

Dear Mark:

It was good to sit down with you while I was in San Francisco and learn more about TURN’s relationship with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Commissioner Mike Florio. I appreciate the time you took to meet with me.

Since then, we have been focused on our Captured Regulators Initiative. In Arizona, we have been finding what we think are some important facts about the extent to which regulators have favored the major state utility, Arizona Public Service, over homeowners’ interests in low-cost rooftop solar.

Here are a couple of articles to give you a sense of what we call the “captured regulator” problem:

As for California, we recently completed an analysis of some of the more controversial actions of former CPUC President Michael Peevey and current Commissioner Mike Florio, including judge-shopping efforts to help PG&E.

We noticed that while TURN was severe in its criticism of then-President Peevy, the response to Florio’s transgressions from your organization has been muted, and you have not called for his resignation.

In fact, our analysis of media coverage since Florio was appointed to the CPUC in January, 2011, found 20 unique, negative quotes from TURN about Peevey, including five calls for his resignation. By contrast, we were able to find only four comments by TURN, all moderate and forgiving in tone, on the ethical challenges and possibly illegal conduct of Florio, who now is under a federal investigation.

When we met, you asserted to me that when it came to Peevey and Florio, “there is a difference between being foolish and being captured.” Yet Florio’s involvement in the judge shopping scheme is not the only point of concern about his conduct.  Florio circumvented rules against back channel, ex parte communications with a PG&E lobbyist that resulted in a $130 million windfall for the utility. Most recently, it was revealed that Florio was present when former President Peevy lobbied Southern California Edison executives to give $25 million to UCLA to fund greenhouse gas research and advised an Edison executive not to report it, as required by law.

Legal experts have been shocked by Commissioner Florio’s behavior and the discrepancy between your response to Peevey versus Florio seems stark.

To promote transparency and understanding, Check & Balances Project invites TURN to release all communications any representative of TURN has had with Commissioner Florio since he left your organization and joined the CPUC. This includes emails and text messages.

I fully recognize that TURN has no obligation to do this. However, providing these communications may remove questions regarding your relationship with Commissioner Florio and your continued refusal to call for his resignation.

Please know that it is my intent under California records law to seek the release of these records. We believe they will be helpful to understand the extent to which Commissioner Florio has been captured by California’s utilities or stands on the side of the consumers that TURN says it seeks to protect.

Thank you again for your time. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

Scott Peterson

Executive Director, Checks and Balances Project

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