The California Energy Commission this week revisited a controversial action it took last month and formally ratified a contract vigorously opposed by the Western Riverside Council of Governments. After more than two hours of debate during a Nov. 9 morning business meeting, the commission formally approved a $33 million award the Riverside council asked to be deferred after it was knocked out of the running (Current, Oct. 22, 2010). The commission backed a deal providing over $33 million to the Local Government Commission to support a new statewide energy and water efficiency and renewable energy generation retrofit program for single- and multi-family residential and commercial buildings. (As a backup plan, the money would have been directed to the Department of General Services if the government commission declined to accept the monies.) The commission originally approved the funding Oct. 21, hours after a state appellate court nullified a Riverside County Superior Court order barring the agency from awarding $33 million in federal stimulus funds. Last month\u2019s commission vote occurred during a special reconvening of its regularly business meeting. The Oct. 20 regular meeting was not formerly adjourned but continued to the next day to avoid notice requirements, according to CEC spokesperson Susanne Garfield. The Western Riverside Council of Governments argued the additional session was not properly noticed in accordance with state law. \u201cThe CEC has not followed its own procedures,\u201d complained Western Riverside council vice chair Robin Hastings. The commission subsequently scheduled this week\u2019s meeting 12 business days after the original approval of the funding in order to give members of the public adequate notice and time to comment before it took action. During Monday\u2019s public hearing on the issue, almost two dozen people weighed in, the majority of whom were officials from cities that would benefit from the funding. Urging approval of the award, many said that unemployment in their areas was significantly higher than the state average of over 12 percent and that the funding for the efficiency programs would help residents with measures they sorely need but cannot afford. But a handful of speakers, including representatives from Western Riverside council, argued that the funding should be at the very least tabled for the time being. The Riverside council, which in February was denied a $20 million grant request from the CEC to implement energy efficiency improvements to properties in western Riverside County, filed a lawsuit over the matter in April. \u201cWe will continue to pursue this legally and hope to bring a timely resolution to this matter,\u201d said council chair Kelly Bennett. Before Monday\u2019s unanimous vote to approve the funding, commissioner Jim Boyd criticized the council of governments, saying that it was \u201cgrasping at straws\u201d and playing \u201cfast and loose\u201d with the facts. Also during its meeting the commission voted unanimously to adjust the Electricity Consumption Surcharge Rate for calendar year 2011 to $.00029 from the current rate of $.00022. The commission is authorized to adjust the electricity consumption surcharge rate at a public meeting each November for the calendar year that begins the following January. \u201cThe Energy Commission is facing severe budget constraints due to unprecedented workloads, combined with a decline in revenue due to the decrease in electricity consumption as a result of California\u2019s economy, in addition to the rigorous energy efficiency measures that the Energy Commission has implemented over the years,\u201d said Mark Hutchinson, the Energy Commission\u2019s deputy administration director. \u201cWe\u2019re partially a victim of our own success,\u201d commissioner Anthony Eggert said. \u201cThe fact that we\u2019ve been successful at energy efficiency means that we have reduced revenues.\u201d Electricity sales are down 6.5 percent from the 2008-2009 fiscal year and are projected to further decline, according to Hutchinson. \u201cIncreasing the surcharge beginning January 1, 2011, will increase revenues to cover baseline activities,\u201d he said. The last time the rate was adjusted was in 2003, when it was moved downward from the cap of $.00030 to $.00022.