The California Public Utilities Commission announced Monday that it's taking steps to deal with newly uncovered "inappropriate email exchanges" earlier this year between a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. executive and senior CPUC officials, including CPUC President Michael Peevey and his chief of staff.
In a statement, the commission said the chief of staff, Carol Brown, has agreed to resign. For his part, Peevey has recused himself from the rate case that was at the center of the newly disclosed emails, as well as the commission's ongoing deliberations over final penalties against PG&E for the September 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline disaster.
As the CPUC made its action public, PG&E announced it had dismissed three executives involved in the email exchanges, including Brian Cherry, vice president for regulatory relations.
The company said the messages "may have violated CPUC rules prohibiting certain ex parte communications -- meaning communication with decision-makers that takes place without the knowledge of all parties to a proceeding." PG&E said it discovered the exchange of emails during a review of five years of emails between the company and the commission.
The exchange is apparently separate from a series of messages made public in July. Those messages included emails between Peevey, Brown and CPUC Executive Director Paul Clanon with Cherry and others at PG&E. Both the company and the commission defended the earlier emails, which discussed issues relating to the San Bruno blast and its regulatory aftermath, as routine messages necessary for the conduct of business. San Bruno city officials and The Utility Reform Network (TURN) blasted the emails as unethical, unprofessional and possibly illegal.