Governor appoints new CPUC chief

Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a new president of the California Public Utilities Commission as well as a new commissioner on the embattled panel, which has recently dealt with allegations of corruption over its dealings with PG&E.

The governor reappointed Michael Picker to the CPUC and designated him president of the commission, while also appointing Liane Randolph as a commissioner. Picker, if confirmed by the state Senate, will take over effective Jan. 1.

He began as a commissioner this past January after serving as senior advisor for renewable energy for the Office of the Governor between 2009 and 2014.

Picker would replace Michael Peevey, who has spent the past 12 years as CPUC president. Peevey announced in October that he would not seek reappointment to the CPUC amid allegations of corruption and inappropriate communications with PG&E.

The release in September of emails between PG&E officials and Peevey, his then-chief of staff and CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio allegedly showed judge-shopping by the utility for an administrative law judge to oversee a gas transmission and storage rate case.

PG&E said it believed the messages violated a CPUC rule prohibiting a utility from sending off-the-record messages, also known as ex parte communications, to CPUC commissioners and staff.

Three PG&E executives were fired over the emails and Peevey’s former chief of staff, Carol Brown, resigned from her position, although she remains an employee with the commission. Picker said in a statement about his appointment that he is:

“… honored by the Governor’s trust and confidence, and take his charge to heart — reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen safety programs and modernize the agency.”

Randolph, who has served in several positions at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2011, also requires Senate confirmation for her appointment. Picker’s proposed annual compensation is $138,867 and Randolph’s is $134,591, according to the governor’s office.