CPUC leader steps down 5 years early amid threats of wildfire, power outages

Inside California Politics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – The leader of the California Public Utilities Commission, Marybel Batjer, is stepping down after roughly two years with the state’s regulatory agency.

Some said this comes as no surprise considering Batjer essentially came out of retirement to help Gov. Gavin Newsom on some projects when he first took office.

But she leaves one of California’s most critical regulatory agencies as the state deals with devastating wildfires and the threat of potential power outages.

In a letter to staff this week, Batjer wrote, “This was a difficult decision, as I am so proud of the work we have done together in the face of a changing climate and global pandemic.”

Newsom appointed Batjer to lead the state’s utility regulating agency in 2019 after spending the first few months of his administration working to improve the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Her term with the CPUC was set to end in 2027.

“For decades, Marybel Batjer has helped tackle the most persistent challenges confronting Californians head-on,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday. “She is a passionate, smart and thoughtful leader and I’m grateful for her service to the State of California and wish her all the best in future endeavors.”

Mark Toney, executive director of utility customer advocate group The Utility Reform Network, said Batjer leaves the CPUC in better shape than when she started.

“Marybel Batjer as president of the commission has exercised very strong leadership at the commission and has really restored the reputation of the CPUC,” Toney said.

Batjer has not given a specific reason for her resignation.

One of the utility companies the CPUC regulates, Pacific Gas & Electric, continues to face blame for blazes across the state.

The Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement, “Batjer’s departure is an opportunity to appoint a utility regulator who will actually hold PG&E and other utilities accountable for their dirty energy choices and grid failures.”

Customer advocates said while Batjer has helped the commission improve, the next leader needs to do even more.

“We need a president that is going to put public safety and the ratepayer costs ahead of shareholder interests,” Toney told FOX40.

Newsom’s office said Batjer’s replacement will be selected by the end of the year. Whoever he picks will need to be confirmed by the Legislature.

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