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Jerry Hill Wants Muscle at Public Utilities Commission

Following the deadly San Bruno explosion, three bills aim to fight a 'culture of complacency.'

The deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010 may have been prevented if a “culture of complacency” at the California Public Utilities Commission did not exist, Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said Thursday.

Hill promoted three bills he has written to try to force culture change at the PUC. Hill forcefully called for the passage of the bills prior to  at .

They included:

AB1456 - Making Safety Performance Part of Authorizing Profit Level

What Jerry Hill said: “Until recently, PG&E leadership was solely focused on profits. Safety took a back seat to the bottom line. Regulators at the PUC did not have a mechanism to hold utilities accountable for poor safety performance.”

What the law would do: “This bill requires the CPUC to consider safety in authorizing an appropriate level of shareholder profit for a natural gas utility. In this way the CPUC will be able to use the flexibility it has in setting ROEs to incentivize utility management to prioritize safety.”

 

AB1197 - Whistleblower Protection for Public Utility Employees

What Jerry Hill said: “Existing law offers limited protections for employer retaliation on utility workers who blow the whistle. It’s critically important that utility workers feel safe in bringing information forward when they think their employer is jeopardizing public safety.”

What the law would do: “AB1197 requires the CPUC to create a comprehensive whistleblower protection program to protect employees, former employees, and third party contractors and subcontractor that step forward with information that will protect public safety and public interest.”

 

AB578 - Adopt NTSB Safety Recommendations

What Jerry Hill said: “NTSB recommendations have been routinely ignored by the PUC. After a 1994 pipeline explosion in New Jersey, the NTSB recommended that utilities install remote control or auto-shutoff valves. Had such valves been in place in San Bruno, the gas-fueled fire that raged for 90 minutes after that explosion would have been extinguished much sooner.”

What the law would do: “This bill requires the CPUC adopt NTSB recommendations, unless the recommendation is not appropriate or a more effective or an equally effective, less costly, alternative exists. Recommendations need to be implemented as soon as practicable. If the CPUC deems that a recommendation is not applicable to California’s situation, or if a more effective or an equally effective alternative solution exists, the CPUC must detail the reason or reasons in writing as a part of the Commission’s record of proceedings.

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