Senators slap energy regulators

Angry California Democratic Senators took the California Energy Commission to task for its recent vote accelerating power plant licensing. The CEC voted 3-2 last month to ignore statutory rules that kept at bay higher polluting, less efficient generating facilities (“Quick and Dirty,” SN&R, November 8).

Senate pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), along with Senators Debra Bowen and Byron Sher, fired off a letter to the CEC calling its controversial resolution “counterproductive and legally questionable.”

The trio pointed out that the restrictions in the law, passed with near unanimity, had the combined effect of allowing speedy plant siting to help alleviate the electron crunch while providing air quality, environmental and public health safeguards.

The majority of the CEC commissioners grounded their approval in the emergency authority granted by Governor Gray Davis at the height of the energy debacle, while the two dissenters insisted the resolution was unsupportable because there was no longer a power emergency to justify the action.

Burton, Bowen and Sher urged the CEC to reconsider its move because the Golden State has no need for additional fossil-fueled power plants, including the peaking power projects units the California Power Authority has its eyes on to boost supplies. They also noted that as a result of the huge amount of traditional power locked into long-term deals, the state is pathetically short of renewable energy supplies.

Last August, the Senate passed a joint resolution to bring the energy emergency declared by Davis to an end. The Assembly, however, ignored the bill.

The senators made it clear they considered the commission’s move a slap in the face given that they worked together on bills to calm the roiling deregulated energy market. The CEC will reconsider its action during a meeting on November 14, after SN&R’s press time.