When the California Public Utilities Commission wants to get a handle on the big picture of events that affect energy regulation, it launches a ?rulemaking? investigation. Usually, it does so with no questions asked, but that was not the story January 22, when commissioners barely approved an inquiry into streamlining transmission siting. Regulators did, however, unanimously agree that tightening supplies of natural gas coming into the state requires a rulemaking that might fast-track liquefied natural gas facilities and pipeline infrastructure. Noting that they?re feeling the heat from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger?s administration, the commissioners voted 3-1 with one abstention to open a rulemaking that could streamline transmission line siting. ?Many consider the current transmission siting process a big problem,? said commissioner Susan Kennedy. ?Many in Sacramento want this commission to completely cede its authority over transmission siting.? Commissioners Carl Wood and Loretta Lynch both expressed concern that simply opening up the rulemaking would prejudge the issue. However, after being assured by staff that the rulemaking would not require ceding authority, commissioner Geoffrey Brown made the swing vote to approve it. Details on the proposal were sketchy, as it was floated only this week. According to commissioners, it would look into changing the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity process to eliminate redundancy between the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and the commission. CAISO might be responsible for determining ?need? for the lines without having commission staff repeating the process. Wood pointed out that the commission has a responsibility to the public, but that a public nonprofit such as CAISO does not have the same accountability. While Brown felt comfortable that the CPUC would remain the ?responsive body to the public,? he conceded that the political pressure is something to consider. ?I worry about the independence of our authority. We can be too solicitous of the powerful? in order to hang on to that authority, he added. In a noncontentious vote?but one that also revealed the hand of the new state administration?the commission said it would open a rulemaking into ensuring long-term natural gas supplies. ?This commission supports efforts to expand and diversify natural gas supplies,? announced commission president Mike Peevey. He emphasized that liquefied natural gas would be a major focus of the investigation. ?The rulemaking sends the correct signal to the market?that California is a good place to do business,? Peevey said. That signal, he added, is consistent with the governor?s political thrust.