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PUC confronts major tests

By Thomas D. Elias

No state agency over the years has so disregarded the interests of both ordinary citizens and business owners as the state Public Utilities Commission.

Not only has it failed to adequately supervise safety of things like natural gas pipelines, but its decisions have consistently taken the side of large utilities over their customers.

From secrecy about the costs of the huge new Mojave Desert solar power installations, due to come online in the next two years, to its dividing of more than $10 billion in restitution money paid by out-of-state electric generating companies that created the energy crunch of the early 2000s, the PUC has always favored the utilities it was created to regulate.

But with four of its five current commissioners appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the commission now has several opportunities to change its ways.

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