Ratepayers for Affordable Clean Energy filed a lawsuit August 16 in San Diego appellate court against the California Public Utilities Commission, contending that regulators made sweeping decisions favoring liquefied natural gas without the required public process. The objective is "ensuring the state conducts a deliberative process before making the decision of subsidizing LNG projects by passing the costs of these projects to utility ratepayers," said attorney Cory Briggs. The CPUC has yet to see the RACE lawsuit, and therefore won't comment on it, said Susan Carothers, commission spokesperson. RACE, a coalition of 17 environmental, human rights, and clean energy advocates, is petitioning the California Court of Appeal to invalidate a September 2004 CPUC decision. The commission authorized natural gas utilities to enter into long-term contracts with suppliers of imported liquefied natural gas rather than maintaining existing contracts with domestic suppliers. The suit states that there's been no public evidentiary process to scrutinize the need for LNG, the price benefits to consumers, or alternatives for meeting California's energy needs. The filing asks for public evidentiary hearings and seeks the testimony and cross examination of witnesses from the public sector, government, and industry. RACE's case arises from what it calls the CPUC's "blind approval of policies facilitating the large-scale use of imported liquefied natural gas in order to meet California's energy demands without considering all the evidence about LNG and the adverse consequences of relying on it as an energy source." The coalition's position is that the industry largely defined the supposed benefits of liquefied natural gas during the last year's reglatory proceeding and that LNG proponents falsely claim that California and the nation are experiencing an impending natural gas shortage. Another bone of contention is that the CPUC made its decision without holding evidentiary hearings to determine whether the projections it received from the utilities about growing demand for natural gas in California over the next decade were accurate. According to U.S. Department of Energy data, North America has sufficient natural gas reserves for at least the next 60 years at current usage rates, and California's natural gas demand has declined 20 percent since 2001. RACE also contends the industry claims that importing the gas will drive the price of natural gas down in California are false.