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Watchdog Group Shows 'Cozy' Emails Between State Regulators and Utility Executives

LOS ANGELES TIMES

The Santa Monica consumer group that prompted an investigation into contacts by the top aide for Gov. Jerry Brown with regulated utilities earlier this year has built a searchable public database of thousands of internal emails to and from her former employer, Pacific Gas & Electric, as well as others.

The emails, released under the California Public Records Act and as part of the utility's response to the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, were posted by Consumer Watchdog on PUCPapers.org

The California Public Utilities Commission has been under criminal investigation since 2014 for its handling of the San Bruno explosion as well as the premature closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2012.

"The documents have already uncovered cozy dealings between regulated utilities and the government that go far beyond former PUC President Michael Peevey and one disgraced PG&E executive, to extend throughout the PUC, the Governor's Office and other government agencies," said Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court.

The database contains more than 130,000 emails and other documents exchanged between state regulators and utility executives, largely related to the San Bruno explosion, the San Onofre closure and the approval last year of the Carlsbad Energy Center power plant.

Much of the material had been posted on the PUC website in 2014 and 2015 or released to consumer groups under the public records law but weren't searchable.

Earlier this year, Consumer Watchdog uncovered emails that reference former PG&E executive Nancy McFadden's exchanges with Peevey and former utility colleagues, who appeared to have been discussing ways to get more utility-friendly people appointed to the commission.

McFadden, who resigned from PG&E in 2010 to become Brown’s executive secretary, became the subject of a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation in March after failing to disclose stock transfers and holdings regarding PG&E.

She amended her disclosures, but the case remains ongoing. According to PUCPapers.org, McFadden’s name came up at least 1,300 times in emails and other records, reflecting both her time at PG&E and her work as top aide to Gov. Brown.

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jeff.mcdonald@sduniontribune.com