California Public Utilities Commission member Carl Wood is trying to pry open the federal gag order on Pacific Gas & Electric?s bankruptcy deal. Federal bankruptcy mediation judge Randall Newsome?s gag order on the negotiations between CPUC staff and PG&E required negotiators to stay mum on the bargaining?leaving only the final result public. ?I am unable to develop a nuanced and complete understanding of the settlement to which I am supposedly a party,? Wood wrote to CPUC administrative law judge Robert Barnett September 12. Wood went on to note that although he is the presiding officer in the case, he has no idea which CPUC staff members participated in negotiations and he has been kept in the dark on negotiating instructions and limits given to staff and outside attorneys. In the last round of hearings on the bankruptcy deal at the CPUC, lawyers and witnesses did a careful dance around the gag order. Consumer groups peppered CPUC staff witness Paul Clanon, the commission?s energy division director who was part of the negotiations, with questions about staff?s expectations and instructions going into the deal making. Answers to those questions, said Wood, ?would shed light on precisely the matters I am concerned about.? The Utility Reform Network, also concerned about secrecy at the CPUC, pursued a case to the state Supreme Court regarding a closed-door deal to keep Southern California Edison out of bankruptcy. The case ultimately failed. ?The questions asked in Wood?s letter should be in the public record,? said Mindy Spatt, TURN spokesperson. Some of the concerns in Wood?s letter were reflected by Judge Barnett during Clanon?s questioning. ?This is a public hearing. We?re trying to find out something that involves billions of dollars, and you?re telling me that everything is protected. I don?t believe that,? Barnett said. The vault door to the negotiations was nudged by a letter from negotiation judge Newsome. (Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali ordered negotiations in March with Newsome at the helm.) In that September 9 letter, addressed to legislators, Newsome said, ?I do not believe that [CPUC staff] overlooked opportunities to reduce costs to ratepayers...the agreement will be tested in public process to determine if it is in the public interest.? Because of that reference to ?opportunities,? consumer lawyers want to be able to cross-examine how the judge arrived at his conclusion. ?This is the public process. Everyone?s hiding behind the attorney-client privilege and the gag order. That doesn?t sound very public to me,? Barnett remarked. Commissioner Wood?s request had gone unanswered as of press time.