Consumer group builds searchable CPUC email database

From San Diego Tribune:

By Jeff McDonald | 4:52 p.m. May 23, 2016

The Santa Monica consumer group that prompted an investigation into Gov. Jerry Brown’s top aide’s contacts with regulated utilities earlier this year has built a searchable public database of thousands of internal emails to and from her former employer, Pacific Gas & Electric, and others.

The emails, released under the California Public Records Act and as part of the utility’s response to the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, were posted by Consumer Watchdog on a new website called

The California Public Utilities Commission has been under criminal investigation since 2014 for its handling of the San Bruno explosion as well as the premature closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2012.

“The documents have already uncovered cozy dealings between regulated utilities and the government that go far beyond former PUC President Michael Peevey and one disgraced PG&E executive, to extend throughout the PUC, the Governor’s Office and other government agencies,” said Jamie Court, the Consumer Watchdog president.

“This is the political equivalent of the citizen science project,” he added. “What we’re hoping to do is give citizen activists the opportunity to explore and chart new constellations of corruption.”

In total, the database contains more than 130,000 emails and other documents exchanged between state regulators and utility executives, largely related to the San Bruno explosion, the San Onofre closure and the approval last year of the Carlsbad Energy Center power plant.

Much of the material previously was posted on the commission’s website in 2014 and 2015 or released to consumer groups under the public records law. But officials did not make the database searchable.

Earlier this year, Consumer Watchdog uncovered emails that reference former PG&E executive Nancy McFadden’s exchanges with Peevey and former utility colleagues, who appeared to have been discussing ways to get more utility-friendly people appointed to the commission.

McFadden, who resigned from PG&E in 2010 to become Brown’s executive secretary, became the subject of a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation in March after failing to disclose stock transfers and holdings regarding PG&E. She amended her disclosures but the case remains ongoing. According to, McFadden’s name came up at least 1,300 times in emails and other records, reflecting both her time at PG&E and her work as top aide to Gov. Brown.