The California Energy Commission could and should have the authority to site new transmission facilities by 2004, according to CEC member John Geesman. He called for the state?s transmission siting authority to be consolidated with the CEC?s power plant certification process this week. Geesman advocated handing over the state?s transmission authority to the CEC to help open up the now-constrained grid to juice from new gas-fired and renewables projects. ?There are no defenders of the status quo,? Geesman said, criticizing the California Public Utilities Commission?s handling of its transmission siting process. ?Ironclad rules are needed. They must be implemented and stuck to.? Crafting siting exemptions, as the CPUC has done, only further hampered the process, he added. Moving transmission siting approval from the CPUC to the energy commission could be expedited if Governor Gray Davis acted through the Little Hoover Commission, Geesman said. Little Hoover could submit its previous recommendation to allow the CEC to handle transmission siting authority to legislators. Lawmakers would then have 60 days to vote for or against the measure. CPUC president Mike Peevey was less than thrilled with the proposal. He opposed a CEC transmission siting takeover unless there was a compelling interest in doing so. He admitted the CPUC?s process bogged down siting the Path 15 and Rainbow Valley transmission projects. ?We did not distinguish ourselves as a model of dispatch,? he added. The CEC, according to Geesman, would speed up transmission siting because it would be modeled after the CEC?s power plant certification process, which meets California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) requirements?and thus is considered ?CEQA equivalent.? In addition, challenges to approved transmission projects, such as ones to power project certifications, would head straight to the California Supreme Court and not be dragged first through lower courts. The issue of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission compliance would be met by working with the California Independent System Operator, according to Geesman. Geesman is also urging utilities to put their resources into transmission upgrades and additions before sinking investments into new power plants such as Edison?s plan for Mountainview.