Utilities lawyer calls for legislative session to reform CPUC - KUSI News - San Diego, CA

Utilities lawyer calls for legislative session to reform CPUC

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SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre is taking aim at the California Public Utilities Commission and calling for a special legislative session to investigate the relationship between the panel and the public utilities it is supposed to regulate.

Aguirre, who has sued San Diego Gas and Electric over costs incurred during the 2007 San Diego wildfires, says the five-member commission is failing to enforce safety rules.

Aguirre blames defective equipment used by Pacific Gas And Electric for sparking the devastating fires that killed 42 people last month in Northern California. Automatic reclosers which allowed electric current to keep flowing through downed power lines were identified as causes of the San Diego wildfires in 2007. The attorney said Pacific Gas and Electric and other utility companies should have removed the reclosers from service, but regulators at the CPUC failed to ensure that this step was taken.

"Now we have people dying that shouldn't have died. Those 40 people that died in Northern California - they shouldn't have died," Aguirre said.

In a report first written in 2015 and updated this month, Aguirre makes the case that the CPUC has failed in its mission to regulate California's three Wall Street traded utilities and is controlled by the companies through political contributions, gifts and junkets.

He cites a lengthy 10 year history of disasters by the utility companies, including the 2010 methane gas explosion in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno in which 8 people were killed, the 2012 failure of steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant which resulted in a radiation leak and the plant's permanent shutdown and the 2015 release of methane gas at the Aliso Canyon storage facility owned by Sempra subsidiary, Southern California Gas.

Aguirre says the CPUC does not care about the public's safety.

"What they care about is maintaining the political system that is relying on the utilities for their finances and if there's any trouble along the way, they'll just come in and cover it up," Aguirre said.

The San Diego attorney wants Governor Jerry Brown to call for a special legislative session next month to investigate the relationship between the commission and the utility companies and to push for serious reform.

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