But, wait, there's more!
The story may have stopped there, except for a consumer advocacy group’s efforts for utility reform. Their allegations kept the San Bruno disaster front and center by claiming PG&E knowingly pumped up their balance sheets and pocketed funds that should have went to the maintenance and upkeep of the aging natural gas system and that it was a relationship with the California Public Utilities Commission, that the group described as “cozy”, that let PG&E to get away with it.
Both the regulator in question and a PG&E Vice President have lost their positions, but recently released e-mails between the two seemed to confirm the allegations, and the fact that both have since lost their jobs also is a strong indicator that the charges were well founded (click here for a great story on this subject).
Discussed in the e-mails are, among other things, talk of vacations, chats with invitations to private meetings at remote and luxurious locales, and a general feeling of collusion between close friends rather than a more professional and business-like exchange between the regulator and the regulated. There are even some chat about PG&E meeting then Governor Jerry Brown and strategies to diffuse the events of San Bruno.
However, the most disturbing aspect revealed in the e-mails is the how the utility targeted the The Utility Reform Network (TURN), which was the advocacy group highlighting and investigating the events of San Bruno.
Apparently the executive director of the California PUC and an "external affairs" schmoozer vice president were having a ton of fun making nasty jokes about the president of The Utility Reform Network (TURN), whose only crime was trying to protect customers and "reform" these dirty bastards.
The emails also detail the cozy relationship between PG&E and its regulators, as well as PG&E and elected officials. It was suggested by the president of the CPUC that PG&E should whine to Governor Jerry Brown about how the explosion disaster was hurting poor, poor pitiful PG&E stock prices, so he could "fix" things.
In January 2011, Peevey sent an e-mail to Cherry urging him to share with a Brown aide, former PG&E executive Nancy McFadden, a financial analyst’s views that the San Bruno case was hurting PG&E’s stock. The report credited Peevey for his “even-handed” approach in controlling the situation.
‘‘As I suggested before, this info should go to the governor’s office, probably best to Nancy McF,” Peevey wrote to Cherry. “Jerry has to be made aware that actions have consequences and the economy is best off with a stable utility sector.”
UWUA finishes up their report with some very good advice:
The real news here is that when people stand together, no matter what derisive things business executives may say against them or how small they may view their fellow citizens, America is still America and people can still make a difference.
The story above is also a reminder that as Americans we have a responsibility to hold the people that serve the public interests in any capacity accountable, and by doing so, we can discourage such insular and covert “cozy” relationships from developing.