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Investigators looking into talks between UCLA, former CPUC president

By amanda schallert

April 9, 2015 5:54 p.m.

This post was updated on April 9 at 8:48 p.m.

Federal investigators are looking into discussions between UCLA and a former California Public Utilities Commission president about millions in commission funding going to a potential university “energy data center,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The CPUC regulates privately owned energy companies in the state.

UCLA officials and former CPUC President Michael Peevey had talked about using commission money from a potential $4.7 billion settlement related to the closing of the San Onofre nuclear power plant in northwestern San Diego County, according to emails obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune in a public records request.

The discussions took place starting in 2013, nine months before any settlement information became public.

Peevey stepped down from his position in December after serving for 12 years. Federal investigators have said they started looking into Peevey’s work to examine alleged bribery and improper communications, among other alleged crimes.

Arranging a settlement with UCLA without including other public stakeholders, for example, would constitute improper communications for the CPUC.

Stephanie Pincetl, director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, exchanged emails with Peevey about the creation of an energy data center and talked about how it would be funded.

In an email, Pincetl said CPUC and Peevey were among other organizations and people, including the Department of Energy and other foundations, that she spoke to about the potential center.

“It is a matter of course that researchers talk to funders and potential interested parties about potential research projects,” she said in the email.

A few of the other names listed in the emails – Alex Turek, a project manager at the Luskin Center for Innovation, and Mark Gold, acting director of the Institute of Environment and Sustainability – could not be reached for comment.

The same emails suggested UCLA offered Peevey a position on the board of advisers of the Luskin Center for Innovation and that he accepted it.

It is still not clear if University of California campuses will receive part of the nuclear power plant settlement money.

UCLA spokesman Tod Tamberg referred to the emails obtained by the U-T San Diego when asked for comment.

Compiled by Amanda Schallert, Bruin senior staff.

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