We knew Michael Peevey was PG&E's biggest ally in fending off accountability for the deadly San Bruno explosion. We knew the president of the California Public Utility Commission placed his cozy relationship with the utility above any responsibility to the public. We've been calling for his head for three years.
But now, thanks to the Public Records Act, there's proof. Emails between PUC officials and PG&E executives released Monday lay bare the extent of Peevey's attempts to protect PG&E.
The state Attorney General and the federal Department of Justice should immediately investigate the connection between Peevey and the utility. At a minimum, the conduct appears to violate the PUC's own rules. The public trust, already worn thin, is in tatters.
As PUC head, Peevey's job is to regulate PG&E. He should have thrown the book at the utility for negligence in the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people, injured 66 and destroyed 38 homes. Instead, the emails show, he has been the utility's faithful friend.
If Brown fails to act, Attorney General Kamala Harris should demand that Peevey remove himself from consideration of any fine for PG&E. In fact, at this point, the only way a penalty will be credible is if the process starts over with an outside arbiter.
How solid is the evidence of Peevey's priorities? Take this email exchange with Brian Cherry, PG&E's vice president for regulatory relations.
Cherry sent Peevey a note outlining PG&E CEO Anthony Earley's plans to accept liability for the explosion. Peevey responds:
"One comment: PG&E's decision to issue a press release anticipating all this meant that the public got to read two big stories rather than one. I think this was inept."
Instead of riding herd on PG&E, Peevey was offering PR advice.
But our favorite was from PG&E executive Laura Doll to Peevey's chief of staff, Carol Brown, in the midst of April 2013 legal proceedings about a safety seminar the commission was planning. It said: "Love you. Thanks."
The emails show a PUC happy to intervene on the utility's behalf during the hearings on gas pipeline safety. They also show that the PUC shared PG&E's concerns that a potential $2.25 billion fine would hurt its bottom line.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, whose district includes San Bruno, on Monday joined the chorus of government officials including state Sen. Jerry Hill, the San Bruno City Council and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors demanding Peevey's ouster. Others should speak out.
Brown has resisted pressure for years, but surely these revelations should move him. The PUC's credibility is shot, and the president is an embarrassment to the state -- and to the governor.