Are there “rogue” state utility commissions programming how state legislatures, laws & courts are prescribed?
Do utility consumers ever question what’s happening in their state regulatory agencies, especially when those agencies practice “administrative over-reach” or get entangled in specious activities and even fraudulent or illegal activities?
Why do I ask such a question? The answer is quite apparent when one realizes the shenanigans that go on when vested interests are at play which can range from industry lobbyists to outright dishonesty on the part(s) of agencies’ employees.
One classic example is what happened in California when California Public Utilities Commission then President Michael Peevey became involved in a criminal investigation.
The facts indicate that Peevey conspired to obstruct justice by illegally engaging in ex parte communications, concealed ex parte communications, and inappropriately interfered with the settlement process on behalf of California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA,” the document says. “Peevey executed this plan through back channel communications and exertion of pressure, in violation of CPUC ex parte rules, and in obstruction of the due administration of laws.”
Microsoft was directed to keep the search warrants secret so none of the parties would have the chance to destroy evidence prior to the records being retrieved. [CJF emphasis]
Source: Los Angeles Times
How about this revelation?
San Onofre emails show history of private meetings between regulators, energy insiders and advisers to Gov. Jerry Brown. (July 17, 2018) Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune
California is not an anomaly; how about what went on in Arizona?
“Court Finds Arizona Corporation Commission ‘Secreted’ Records On Smart Meters” (October 5, 2017) Source: Arizona Daily Independent
On Tuesday, the state Court of Appeals ruled in favor of utility watchdog, Warren Woodward. The Court reversed and remanded Yavapai County Superior Judge Jeffrey Paupore’s ruling in a case brought by Woodward involving “smart meters.”
Judge Diane Johnsen wrote the opinion for the unanimous three-judge panel.
According to [pro se complainant Warren] Woodward, he had sought “documents and emails concerning the “smart” meter health study that the ACC asked the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to perform. The ACC redacted stuff they had no legal right to redact. They even invented a redaction classification that does not exist under Arizona law, ‘state of mind’.
Woodward had discovered an email exchange between the ADHS and ACC staff that had not been turned over by the Commission in response to his request. ‘In other words, the ACC hid it from me,’ Woodward told supporters in an email after the Court of Appeal’s ruling. ‘In that exchange, the head of the ACC was prejudicing the study from the start by telegraphing the type of study the ACC wanted (favorable to “smart” meters). Remarkably, the head of the ADHS responded that he knew “intuitively” that “smart” meters were safe. So much for objective science. The ADHS study went downhill from there’. [CJF emphasis]
And then there’s the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission which, in the opinion of PA utility consumers and PA PUC complainants, has practiced administrative over-reach a couple of times recently.
One time is the PA PUC’s interpretation of what and how the PA state legislature wrote and passed as HB2200, which became PA Act 129 (2008) regarding the mandated retrofitting of radiofrequency-emitting AMI Smart Meters on to all buildings for utilities with 100,000 customers or more.
In a confirmed USPS-delivered letter to Mr. Thomas A. McCarey from PA PUC Utility Commission, Office of Communications Dave Hixson, dated March 22, 2017, Mr. Hixson confirms the following:
As I stated in my earlier email correspondence with you, the Commission believes that it was the intent of the General Assembly to require all covered electric companies to deploy smart meters system-wide. [CJF emphasis]
What every Pennsylvanian realizes when he/she reads the HB2200 §2807(f)7(2) Legislative History, as published of record in the House and Senate Journals of those days, the bill signed by the Governor actually was an opt-in bill, not a mandatory statute the PA PUC created while writing utility companies rules and regulations for compliance with Act 129! Interesting?!
But that’s not the PA PUC’s only indiscretion that’s come to light recently.
It seems that the PA PUC is/was/has been involved in a most controversial ecological issue regarding the Sunoco Mariner East pipeline project in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which that county’s District Attorney, Thomas P. Hogan, launched a criminal investigation into. Whoa!
Why a criminal investigation?
Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan announced Wednesday that his office is launching a criminal investigation into construction of the contentious Mariner East pipelines, putting the prosecutor directly into a political battle involving anti-pipeline activists and state officials he said have failed to step in to protect local residents.
Hogan accused Gov. Wolf and state agencies of failing to hold Sunoco Pipeline LP accountable, drawing curt responses from Wolf’s office and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which have cited the company numerous times for environmental violations associated with pipeline construction and for safety concerns associated with the first Mariner East pipeline, which began operations in 2014.
Here is the Press Release from the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, dated December 19, 2018, regarding his actions.
However, there’s more to this than meets the sanitized media version of ALL the issues involved. The PA PUC, a while back, declared Sunoco, a gas refinery and gasoline purveyor, to be a PUBLIC UTILITY thereby, once again, obviously over-stepping the PUC’s regulatory agency’s charter, mission and agency powers, as we shall see in the PA PUC Administrative Court decision, which follows.
In a June 10, 2014 Philadelphia Inquirer online article, reporter Andrew Maykuth featured this information, “Critics challenge Sunoco Pipeline as public utility.”
But nothing—again nothing—illustrates the PA PUC’s apparent obsession for administrative over-reach than the PA PUC Administrative Law Court Judges David A. Salapa and Elizabeth H. Barnes ORDER wherein the Judges affirmed the PA PUC’s seemingly disregard about practicing “administrative over-reach”:
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1) Sunoco’s proposed Mariner East pipeline service does not constitute public utility service as defined by the Public Utility Code. 66 Pa.C.S. § 102.
2) Sunoco is not a public utility corporation as defined by the Business Corporation Law. 15 Pa.C.S. § 1103.
3) A municipality may zone a public utility building unless the Commission determines that the building is reasonably necessary for the convenience or welfare of the public. 53 P.S. § 10619.
4) Sunoco’s proposed buildings will not be used in public utility service as part of the proposed Mariner East project.
5) The Commission lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Sunoco’s amended petitions.
Source: Chesco Planning
Furthermore, in December 2018, Chester County commissioners sent letters to the PA PUC regarding the PUC providing guidelines for protecting school children and the public in the event of a pipeline disaster, as has happened elsewhere, i.e., a natural gas pipeline in Beaver County, PA, owned by Energy Transfer Partners.
Additionally, sink holes have opened up near homes in Exton, PA, and thought to be connected to the pipeline drilling. There have been reports that Sunoco, an Energy Transfer Partners L.P. company, has paid the costs for relocation of some residents who ‘lost’ their homes to the Mariner pipeline construction.
So what are the “take away” information or lessons utility consumers need to realize and understand from all the above?
Public utility commissions are not there to protect the public regardless of what their mission statements declare.
They are there to protect and work for corporate utility companies who lobby them, often with pseudoscience, and with apparent disregard for what state legislatures enact or what is written into law.
As is the case in Pennsylvania, one would think it most apparent, and absolutely necessary, that the PA State Attorney General would initiate an independent criminal investigation of the PA PUC, its Administrative Law Court, the PUC’s apparent long-standing, on-going agency “over-reach” practices, plus the procedural operations of state legislature committees—like the one recently-resigned Representative Robert Godshall (House Consumer Affairs Committee) oversaw and ‘ruled’, which indirectly enforced the illegal retrofitting of health-damaging AMI Smart Meters for electric, natural gas and water utilities by not permitting proposed AMI SM opt-out bills coming to the floor for a vote for 6 to 8 years.
The absolute “take away” for consumers is this
Get involved and don’t be fooled or browbeaten by utility companies’ threats with turning off your utility service, if your bills are paid in full. File formal complaints with your state’s utility commission, but most of all, do your research into how things are done – often illegally – while no one challenges them, especially oversight agencies within the federal government, as are coming to light recently regarding the FBI’s former Directors Comey [2013-2017] and Mueller [2001-2013].
If you want government to work correctly, you have to get involved to make that happen!