AB 2006 Narrowly Survives Senate Vote

By Published On: August 28, 2004

As lawmakers worked into the evening on August 26, it became clear that the year?s major energy bill would live to see the following day. AB 2006 drew a 22-14 vote on the Senate floor and will be heard next in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee prior to a full vote by the state?s lower house. Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), coauthor of the bill carried by Assembly speaker Fabian N??ez (D-Los Angeles), sought to dispel popular notions about the measure before fellow legislators Thursday. ?This is not about cobbling together a Christmas tree of special interest provisions? as recent television and radio ads would suggest, she said. Electricity choice elements were stripped from the bill in favor of solving more pressing short-term resource adequacy needs, according to Bowen. AB 2006 faced heavy criticism from Republican lawmakers. When Senator Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside) asked Bowen why direct-access language had not been included despite the insistence of the governor?s office, she held that stakeholders could not agree on how utility customers should be allowed to come and go or how to prevent unfair cost shifting among customer classes. Morrow dismissed recent bill changes as ?classic late-hour? chicanery. ?I?ve never seen a version of this bill that I liked?or that a Republican or the governor has been able to support,? he said. Colleague Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) went further, likening bill supporters, such as Southern California Edison, to legendary outlaw Jesse James. Instead of a mask and a gun, ?these guys have suits and fountain pens,? he charged. ?To hell with them. Vote no.? A source in the Senate said that despite recent indications by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that he would veto AB 2006, the bill would probably make it through the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee?but the floor vote, as in the Senate, will be close. As expected, AB 2006 took on a new batch of amendments this week regarding the California Public Utilities Commission?s conflict-of-interest code (<i>Circuit</i>, August 20, 2004). In addition to requiring that commissioners have no financial interest in the firms they regulate, potential CPUC members would be blocked from serving if ?a substantial portion? of their income came from commission- regulated entities during the two years preceding their appointment. Commissioners also would be unable to be paid by those companies for two years after their stint on the CPUC dais. Under amendments added August 25, CPUC members would have to listen to alternative power plant proposals before granting a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to a utility seeking to build generation. Commissioners would be required to reject handing utilities a certificate if another project proposal proved to be less costly to ratepayers and to provide environmental benefits and system reliability equal to or better than the utility proposal. The bill would further require that regulators hold a hearing for any disputed settlement that could hit utility ratepayers for $10 million or more. Earlier this week, an array of business interests allied under the moniker Partnership for Open and Workable Energy Reform (POWER)?led largely by generator Calpine?continued their public opposition to the bill. The group held a press conference in Sacramento on the matter and is still running advertisements on television and radio accusing AB 2006 of providing a ?blank check? to state utilities. As Senator Bowen pointed out, however, under a direct-access energy market there is no proven method to prevent unlimited checks being written by ratepayers should electric choice customers opt to return to utility service?a position supported by consumer advocates. The ensuing uncertainty regarding a utility?s customer base could lead to greater expense in electricity planning and procurement, advocates maintain. In other legislative action this week, a bill that would get rid of the Electricity Oversight Board cleared the Senate floor handily on a 27-7 vote. Bowen?s SB 920 would transfer the board?s remaining energy litigation activities to the state Attorney General?s Office. ?There is simply no longer a need for this agency,? she argued Thursday. The oversight board also is on the list of organizations targeted for extinction by the recently issued California Performance Review report (<i>Circuit</i>, August 6, 2004). Also this week, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law SB 1776, Bowen?s bill regarding how the California Energy Commission reviews power plant applications. The bill allows the commission to continue exercising expedited review of new power plant proposals, as well as unit repowerings, until 2007. That authority expired in January of this year. SB 1776 passed the Assembly on a 76-0 vote earlier this month.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now