In the years since the September 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, the relationship between pipeline operator Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and high-ranking officials at the California Public Utilities Commission has come under intense scrutiny, undermining public trust in the state agency tasked with ensuring safe pipeline operations.
State prosecutors and a federal grand jury are currently zeroing in on alleged improper ties between PG&E and top state regulators. State investigators acting on a search warrant earlier this year seized iPhones, a laptop and bank statements from the residence of former CPUC President Michael Peevey and took similar items from the home of PG&E's former Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, Brian Cherry, all on suspicion of felony activity relating to a judge-shopping scandal brought to light by email records.
Those exchanges were made public in the wake of civil litigation brought on behalf of San Bruno, when a judge ordered PG&E to release records consisting of some 65,000 emails and 123,000 documents.
KQED has taken a detailed look into this correspondence, which reveals in granular detail the familiar relationships between key decision-makers and PG&E executives that lasted well beyond the San Bruno incident. There are multiple instances of Peevey arranging to meet with Cherry for holiday visits that involved sipping wine — a keyword search of the email records for the words “pinot” or “cabernet,” for example, yielded 16 separate items.
But two of the closest confidants were Cherry and then-CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon. The collection of documents provided by PG&E shows that between 2010 and 2014, Cherry and Clanon were on 2,369 of the same email threads using their official email addresses -- that's an average of 11 times a week.