PG&E executives and Board were just fine with former long-time Regulatory Affairs VP Brian Cherry’s chummy working relationship with California utility regulators at the CPUC even when their 30-inch gas line exploded beneath a San Bruno neighborhood, killing and maiming residents. It took the bulk subpoenaing of emails by the City of San Bruno to reveal to everyone else the extent of manipulation and collusion between Mr. Cherry and CPUC President Michael Peevey, his chief of staff, and mid-level managers at the CPUC.
Job One at PG&E (and at any publicly-traded utility) is their “safety culture” PR mantra, to the extent that it keeps up a squeaky clean image for Wall Street investors. Ratepayers and everybody else can take a hike.
To be expected, PG&E stock dived after word of the regulatory collusion was aired, so image-savvy PG&E took the only course open to them—extreme image makeover. Lifting their Office (file cabinet) of Corporate Ethics (waivers) from its musty corner somewhere in the San Francisco waterfront warehouses where the rumored gas transmission line inspection records were supposedly kept, to a shiny new Vice President position reporting directly to Board Chair & CEO Tony Earley, the company hired seasoned corporate lawyer Julie Kane. Ms. Kane held a similar position at AVON where she recently steered the company to safety amidst a corruption scandal involving their Chinese operations, overseeing a $135M penalty settlement brought by the Dept. of Justice on behalf of the SEC.
Now, if PG&E could just hire someone ethical to run the power generation arm of the company, someone who could push for a top-notch professional job of quantifying the seismic safety at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, instead of the piss-poor report they are now trying to sell us. But as the corporation has made clear, they’re not really much interested in the ratepayer’s perception of safety, as they are of the freshness of the roses they send to Wall Street.