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Michael Peevey accused of pressuring companies to donate to UCLA

By Ryan Leou

May 1, 2015 12:00 a.m.

A sworn affidavit released Wednesday from a Southern California Edison executive accused the former California Public Utilities Commission president of pressuring utilities companies to donate millions to UCLA for research.

The affidavit from Ron Litzinger alleged that Michael Peevey, then-president of the CPUC, demanded that Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric donate $25 million over five years to the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA for greenhouse gas research. The funding was part of a $4.8 billion settlement resulting from the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Diego.

The utilities commission regulates private electricity, gas and other utilities in the state.

Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric said in an advice letter dated April 20 that they would fund multiple research projects across five University of California campuses, from Santa Barbara to San Diego, rather than solely funding UCLA’s center.

The San Onofre plant closed prematurely in 2013 because of a failure in one of its steam generators. The costs from closing the plant were split between utility customers and utility companies in a settlement approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in November 2014. Customers would have paid $3.3 billion and Edison and San Diego Gas would have paid $1.4 billion total.

Litzinger alleged in his affidavit that Peevey demanded the $25 million in May 2014 and called Litzinger to ask for it several times after that. Litzinger also claimed Peevey demanded to speak with the CEO of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, about the funding.

The $25 million was added to the settlement in September 2014 in a proposal by Commissioner Mike Florio, but it was originally designated to fund greenhouse gas research at UC Berkeley. Commissioners on the panel amended the proposal to give the money to UCLA before the settlement was approved, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In March, U-T San Diego published emails between Peevey and Stephanie Pincetl, director of the Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, in which Pincetl suggested funds from the settlement could be used to create an energy data center for UCLA to monitor greenhouse gas emission data throughout the state. Emails also showed that UCLA’s Luskin Center of Innovation had offered Peevey a position on its advisory board.

The utilities commission is required to conduct its business in public. Some have raised concerns over the discussion between Peevey and Pincetl, which they think was wrongly kept out of the public eye.

When asked for comment, the Center for Sustainable Communities referred to Pincetl. Pincetl said she thinks it is a complex situation that has been misconstrued.

Pincetl added in an email that there was “no agreement implied, intended or in place” for the center to receive funding from the settlement. She also said the center did not have foreknowledge of the settlement details because there was no settlement at the time.

She added she did not have any additional contact with Peevey or Edison officials beyond the emails released in March.

The utilities commission is considering reopening the San Onofre settlement because of concerns about Peevey’s involvement in the deal.

Compiled by Ryan Leou, Bruin contributor.

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Ryan Leou | Assistant News Editor
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