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Brown names consumer advocate to utilities commission

Michael Florio, an attorney for the Utility Reform Network, is appointed to serve five years. Brown also names law professor Catherine Sandoval to the PUC and makes two appointments on the energy commission.

January 26, 2011|By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday named a leading consumer advocate to serve on the California Public Utilities Commission, one of the state's most powerful regulatory bodies.

Michael Florio, a senior attorney for the Utility Reform Network, known as TURN, was appointed to serve a five-year term. Brown also named Catherine Sandoval, a Santa Clara University law professor, telecommunications expert and former Rhodes scholar, to the five-member, constitutionally independent panel.

The utilities commission oversees companies supplying electricity, natural gas, telephone and cable television service to millions of homes and businesses.

The governor reappointed Robert Weisenmiller, an energy consultant, to the California Energy Commission and designated him to serve as chairman, beginning Feb. 6. Weisenmiller has four years left on his five-year term. A second, five-year slot went to Carla Peterman, a UC Berkeley doctoral candidate, solar-energy specialist and another Rhodes scholar.

The energy commission is charged with licensing power plants, setting efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, and conducting research and analysis on a range of energy-related issues.

The four appointees, who must be confirmed by the state Senate, won praise from one of the Legislature's top energy officials, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), chairman of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.

"Gov. Brown's appointments reflect his desire to move California forward in the areas of clean energy and telecommunications while controlling costs to ratepayers," Padilla said. "Given the challenging economy, that makes a lot of sense."

Florio brings 32 years of legal experience in utilities law to the PUC. The Oakland resident has direct knowledge of most energy proceedings at the San Francisco-based agency. His legal arguments at times had major effects on key decisions made by commissioners during the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001. Florio is an expert on natural gas regulatory law. He has stepped down from TURN to serve on the utilities commission.

"Consumers in California now have a CPUC commissioner they can depend on," said TURN Executive Director Mark Toney. "Mike Florio is eminently qualified to serve on an agency whose mission is to 'protect the public interest by protecting consumers.' His expertise and dedication are likely to help the commission rehabilitate its tarred image."

The PUC recently has been criticized for an alleged lack of oversight of a natural gas pipeline that exploded in September, killing eight people in San Bruno.

marc.lifsher@latimes.com

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