SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Jerry Brown recently named two of his advisers to commissioner seats on the California Public Utilities Commission, and a civil-justice advocate said his group is looking forward to working with them.
Brown's choices were Martha Guzman Aceves and Clifford Rechtschaffen, according to a report on www.naturalgasintel.com.
According to John Doherty, president and CEO of The Civil Justice Association of California, Guzman has worked in and around the the capital since the early 2000s.
“She worked for a couple of community groups but has been really a key aid to the governor in different positions since 2011,” Doherty told The Northern California Record. “She spends almost as much time advising the current governor on issues as she was before that and an outside advocate.”
Rechtschaffen was a special assistant attorney general from 2007-10 when Brown was attorney general prior to being elected governor.
“So you’re really talking about two very close, relatively high-level aides to the governor being moved over to a commission that has had its share of challenges,” Doherty said, “and I think that the governor’s move was to put solid policy people that he trusted to help sort of deal with those challenges.”
Guzman has worked with the United Farm Workers Union and then with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, a group that provides advice and legal counsel for low-income rural residents in California.
According to Doherty, Rechtschaffen, after graduating from Yale, focused on working on environmental issues for the government itself.
“There have been recurring bills and discussions about what’s going to happen with the PUC,” Doherty said. “As you look at it right now, their two biggest issues have really been the telecoms and communications of the world, and the energy companies.”
“There have been bills introduced to abolish the agency,” he continued. “There have even been discussions about splitting it up, about creating two different entities. So, it’s tough to say what the next step is for it. But generally speaking, I think that they’re, for the foreseeable future, trying to implement a culture of transparency and independence with their regulated seal.”
Doherty said they hope the new commissioners will approach the CPUC with a balanced perspective of the duty they have as regulators to look at markets currently standing at CPUC.
“We’re hoping that they will embrace modernization and efforts to streamline the process to protect consumers, but not create needless hoops for the company,” Doherty said.
“I’m not an expert on how they developed their expertise and what they’ve been studying up on,” he continued, “but clearly both come from a public-sector not a private-sector background, which is not necessarily a problem and actually not a bad way to be seasoned in the different policy issues facing the commission.”
“We’re looking forward to working with both of them,” Doherty said. “We think that the governor’s efforts to make sure the PUC is working in peak position is something we’re supportive of.”