California Public Utilities Commission Chief Is Leaving

By Published On: September 28, 2021

Marybel Batjer, California Public Utilities Commission president, is bidding adieu to the agency, five years before the end of her term. In a Sept. 28 email to staff, Batjer said she will depart by the end of  the year,

“This was a difficult decision, as I am so proud of the work we have done together in the face of a changing climate and global pandemic,” she wrote. She added that Gov. Gavin Newsom supports her decision and continues to support her while she works “to facilitate the transition of new leadership and better position the state for the reliability and safety challenges of this and subsequent summers and wildfire seasons.”

Newsom appointed Batjer CPUC president in July 2019 to replace outgoing President Mike Picker. She was reappointed a year later for a term that ends Jan. 1, 2027.

One of the controversies that has hounded her is the contentious August 2020 firing of CPUC Executive Director Alice Stebbins, a 30-year government employee, over charges of nepotism. Stebbins sued in December, asserting the actual reason she was forced out was for blowing the whistle on the commission’s failure to collect $200 million not collected from water, communication, and energy utilities.

Bather also has led the agency as utility-sparked wildfires have caused massive damage, and investor-owned utility rates and risk-related outages have soared.

In addition, the CPUC’s work toward a fully-decarbonized energy system has been supplanted by the California Energy Commission. “The center of gravity has shifted,” V. John White, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies executive director, told Current. The CEC is the agency guiding the California grid operator’s 20-year transmission plan needed to attain 100% clean energy, as required by SB 100.

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