LA
09/14/2010 11:59 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

San Bruno Fire: PG&E Has Lobbying Muscle To Help With San Bruno Fallout

This story comes courtesy of California Watch.

As it gears up to avert any public relations or regulatory backlash from last week's fatal gas line inferno in San Bruno, PG&E Corp. is already stocked with some of the best lobbyists and political connections that money can buy, the company's quarterly lobbying filings show.

Since the beginning of 2009, PG&E has spent more than $2 million lobbying in California. The company spent more than $243,000 alone lobbying the California Public Utilities Commission, which is supposed to regulate utility companies and recently ordered PG&E to inspect all its California pipelines in the wake of the San Bruno explosion.

The company's statewide lobbying efforts, however, are dwarfed by its federal lobbying budget of nearly $44 million during the first six months of this year alone - a new spending record for utility companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At least one of its lobbyists is a former California congressman: Democrat Vic Fazio, who represented the Sacramento area and sections of northeast California between 1979 and 1999.

Many of the company's state-level lobbying expenditures appear to be included in its federal filings, so its spending on purely federal lobbying activities could be slightly lower.

In California, PG&E has lobbied dozens of bills, including some with seemingly no connection to public utilities. In doing so, the company has wined and dined state legislators (most recently Assemblymen Felipe Fuentes and Steve Bradford) and has regularly picked up the tab for meals with Public Utilities Commission regulators, filings show.

In addition to its lobbying efforts, PG&E has also spent millions on campaign contributions to dozens of lawmakers and political organizations, both state and federal. Notably this year, the company was dealt an expensive defeat when a ballot measure it was sponsoring, known as Prop. 16, was voted down in the June elections. The measure would have made it more difficult for local governments to start small utility companies.