The California Energy Commission continues to carry out its historical mandate?siting new power plants. The permit application for the 1,087 MW San Joaquin Valley Energy Center, proposed by Calpine, got a unanimous ?yes? from commissioners at a January 14 business meeting. ?It?s nice to see a project that started off controversial and wound up rather peacefully,? said CEC chair Bill Keese. Plant neighbors on the outskirts of the city of San Joaquin expressed concerns about the soil in the area and flooding. The project is slated for an undeveloped area near the California Aqueduct and Fresno Slough. Minority advocates worried about environmental justice?the population near the proposed plant is more than 50 percent minority, largely Hispanic. There is also the potential for the construction of the plant to inadvertently kill endangered species. According to the commission, Calpine estimates the cost of building the power plant at between $400 million and $600 million. Reclaimed water is to be used for cooling. In nontraditional action, the CEC is trying to keep its work flow uninterrupted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger?s order that it not engage in any contracts or purchasing until June. At its business meeting, the commission voted to ask for a formal exemption from more Energy Conservation Assistance Account funding being held up under Executive Order S-4-03, issued December 5. Recently exempted from the freeze was funding for the Public Interest Energy Research Program, as well as other renewable subsidies and another pot of money from the federal government being passed through the commission. ?Rather than holding everything up, we wanted to start processing loans,? said Claudia Chandler, CEC spokesperson. She noted that not a cent can be spent until the exemptions are approved. Schwarzenegger?s kibosh on agency spending included ?new services contracts, or changes to an existing contract that would increase the amount or extend the term of such a contract.? However, the governor consistently added the caveat, ?Except as may be determined . . . to be in the best interest of the state.? While the governor also has a hold on some of the commission?s regulatory authority, it, too, is being disencumbered piece by piece. The CEC has yet to get an exemption to require new efficiency standards on washing machines, but it did get an exemption for distributed-generation exit fee rules. At the end of January, the agency is required to submit its review of all regulations since 1999 to the governor?s office. Chandler said there are about ?50 to 60? such regulations, mostly covering building and energy-efficiency standards. A similar ban on regulation, one that was not mandated but that Schwarzenegger requested for the CEC?s sister commission, the California Public Utilities Commission, is still in limbo (see <i>Energy Circuit<\/i>, January 9, 2004). The governor requested the CPUC?s compliance in late December with the ban on regulations he imposed on other agencies. Schwarzenegger could not demand acquiescence because the CPUC is a constitutionally created agency. The CPUC has yet to respond to the administration?s request, according to commission spokesperson Terrie Prosper, and continues major rulemaking.