Legislation Would Rework PUC Hearing Process

The California Public Utilities Commission is under scrutiny for potential conflicts of interest following its handling of the 2011 PG&E gas line explosion in San Bruno.  One lawmaker wants to make PUC hearings more like regular courtrooms, where judges and prosecutors act separately.
Last October, PUC president Michael Peevey ordered lawyers handling the PG&E case to end public hearings over the deadly blast in San Bruno, and he put the parties in closed-door settlement talks.

State Senator Jerry Hill criticized that move, and introduced a bill Monday to prevent commissioners from directly supervising the lawyers who have cases before them.  "Picture any criminal proceeding where a judge can tell a prosecutor how to present his case and control it completely," Hill says. "That's what we have here today."

San Bruno explosion survivor Kathy Derenzi says she's disappointed in the PUC, and hopes the bill improves the agency.  "It doesn't feel right. It isn't right, how things are decided," Derenzi says."Nothing has changed. In over two years I've learned so much about this organization that was supposed to protect us."

A hearing on the bill is expected in the coming weeks.

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