SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown appointed two former top aides Wednesday to a state panel that has been roiled by allegations of lax oversight and cozy dealings with utilities.
Brown named his former adviser, Clifford Rechtschaffen, and former deputy legislative affairs secretary, Martha Guzman Aceves, to the California Public Utilities Commission.
In a statement, Brown said the two would protect ratepayers and ensure “safe, reliable and climate-friendly energy in California.”
The state utilities panel has been under greater scrutiny since a gas-line explosion killed eight people in a San Francisco suburb in 2010. A federal investigation into the disaster cited lax oversight by the utilities commission. The utility involved, Pacific Gas & Electric, later released emails showing utility commissioners seeking donations from the utility’s executives and helping executives behind the scenes select favored commission judges to decide cases involving the utility.
Federal and state prosecutors earlier announced investigations into those allegations in 2015, but they have yet to announce any conclusions. One of the outgoing commission members, former consumer-advocate Michael Florio, being replaced when his six-year term expires Sunday, was involved in some of the questioned email exchanges with utility executives. He has defended his private communications with the utility officials.
Guzman Aceves previously worked on farm-worker issues, among other matters. Rechtschaffen briefly served as head of the state Department of Conservation, which oversees oilfield drilling in California, the nation’s No. 3 oil-producing state.