Under fire

Mar 23, 2012

The president of the state Public Utilities Commission, Michael Peevey, is coming under fire from consumer advocates, who are questioning his role in a $150 million project at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Controversy over Peevey, a former Edison executive and one of the most powerful regulators in California, is nothing new.


From the Contra Costa Times' Mike Taugher: "TURN and other consumer advocates have objected to the initiative for a number of reasons, saying the plan's goals are overly vague and that utility customers may already be paying for similar projects. And they object to the timing of the project -- coming not during an overall review of rates that is conducted every three years but instead coming up for consideration separately."


"The development is the latest in a run of conflicts between Peevey, a former utility executive, and consumer advocates who contend he is not tough enough on his former industry. Most recently, TURN and others criticized Peevey for appointing himself to preside over a high-profile investigation into PG&E's failures leading up to the 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno. TURN and others contend Peevey bears blame because PG&E's failures occurred on his watch as the commission's head."


Speaking of the PUC, an administrative law judge at the PUC has turned down PG&E's appeal of a $16.8 million fine that was imposed in connection company's failure to fix leaks in Contra Costa County. The judge didn't mince words.


From the Chronicle's Jaxon Van Derbeken: "In a sternly worded decision handed down this week, Judge Burton Mattson turned down PG&E's appeal proposing that it be fined $400,000 or less for failing to conduct required leak surveys in neighborhoods in Pittsburg, Antioch, Concord, Danville, Discovery Bay, Brentwood and Byron."


"PG&E argued that it should be fined the lesser amount because it disclosed the problem itself in December."


"PG&E's offenses were severe," Mattson said in his ruling, and the "potential public harm from these violations was great."


The process by which school teachers are laid off is costly and inefficient, and it could be improved if local school districts had more autonomy in decision making, according to a new report.


From Barbara Jones in the L.A. Daily News: "He also analyzed California's seniority-based system for laying off employees and suggested that districts also include student and teacher performance and other elements as a way to retain their highest-quality employees while shrinking staff."


"Much of Taylor's report was based on Education Code, which mandates that pink slips be sent by March 15 to teachers who may lose their jobs the next school year. The deadline is May 1 for notifying employees that their jobs will actually be eliminated."


"The report said the notification deadline is "disconnected" from the state budget cycle, which forces districts to make what amounts to an educated guess about how much state money they'll receive for the fiscal year that begins July 1."


The preliminary hearing in the case of Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the Legislature's only Tea Party member who was busted for carrying a loaded weapon into Ontario Airport, was continued until Monday in Riverside County.


From the Press-Enterprise's Imran Ghori: "Pacheco, a former district attorney for Riverside County, met with San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney John Kochis and Judge Sarah Jones in her chambers for about a half-hour before they came out and she announced that they agreed to the delay."


“We’re just discussing the case and I’ll have more information on Monday,” Kochis said.


"Prosecutors filed one count of carrying a loaded firearm into a city and one count of possession of a prohibited item in a sterile area — in this case, Ontario airport, according to court records."

And from our "Carrot Top" file comes the tale of the woman who is obsessed with carrots. Reminds us of Groucho Marx's line: "I like a good cigar but I take it out of my mouth once in awhile."


But back to the carrot lady: "In yet another bizarre episode of TLC’s new series My Crazy Obsession, which screened on the television network last night, we were introduced to Zizi Howell, who is obsessed with carrots."


"The Californian woman showed off 35 carrot-themed tattoos and revealed to the network she owned more than 1,000 pieces of carrot memorabilia, which she spends up to five hours per day organising."


"They include fridge magnets, wind-up toys and carrot-inspired teapots."

What's up doc?...

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