CPUC’s Chong Out, Peevey 2nd Term in Limbo

By Published On: December 11, 2009

California Public Utilities Commission member Rachelle Chong was shown the door by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) this week. CPUC president Mike Peevey is still waiting for Steinberg to schedule a reconfirmation hearing. The two commissioners current terms expire December 31. The CPUC declined to comment. Steinberg said he would not hold a Senate Rules Committee confirmation hearing for Chong, whom the governor reappointed to a second five-year term. Steinberg took issue with Chong’s anti-consumer votes on telecommunication issues, said Alicia Trost, his spokesperson. “It’s outrageous that the Senate would not give the first Asian on the commission a confirmation hearing,” said Mike Naples, a spokesperson for the governor. “Her votes were identical to that of her male colleague, Mike Peevey,” he said. He added she also had significant support from business groups. To avoid a bruising Senate confirmation battle in the last year of the governor’s term, the state chief may fill Chong’s seat with a temporary appointment. Some say Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s energy advisor Dan Pellissier may wind up filling the CPUC seat for one year. Meanwhile, an announcement by the governor as to who is to take departing California Energy Commission member Art Rosenfeld’s seat is expected soon. Anthony Eggert--currently the science and technology policy advisor for the California Air Resources Board--could be the likely pick for the engineer/scientist seat at the Energy Commission, say some capital insiders. He previously served as an energy policy advisor to the University of California Office of the President. Both a Senate Rules hearing and vote on the Senate floor must occur by January 1, 2010 for Peevey to continue in his post at the CPUC. Whether Peevey continues serving and a Senate Rules Committee hearing will be set likely will be decided by the end of this week, Trost said. Capitol insiders bet that Peevey will be reconfirmed before the year’s end. His wife, Carol Liu is a Democratic state senator from the Pasadena area. The earliest a Senate floor vote is expected on Peevey’s second term is December 17, Trost told Circuit. Consumer advocates strongly objected to Chong’s support of telecommunication deregulation. “It is no secret that TURN and other consumer advocates opposed her,” said Mindy Spatt, The Utility Reform Network spokesperson. “The commission is biased towards utility companies,” Spatt said, adding, the open seat offers a chance to “restore some balance.”

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