The California Energy Commission reversed itself a day after it decided against hearing a large-dollar agenda item at its October 20 meeting due to an ongoing legal battle with the Western Riverside Council of Governments. After a favorable appellate ruling October 21, the energy commissioners resumed their meeting and voted unanimously to disburse $33 million of federal stimulus funding to a statewide energy and water efficiency and renewable generation retrofit program, as well as an energy efficiency loan program. The Energy Commission’s chief legal counsel, Michael Levy, recommended against hearing the items Wednesday due to a lawsuit by the Western Riverside Council seeking to halt the Energy Commission’s redirection of $33 million in federal funds initially set aside for local Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, programs (see above story). On October 20, the Energy Commission agreed to table the item but did not adjourn. Instead, it continued the meeting to allow the matter be taken up for a vote without public notice “because we were hoping for a swift decision” from the appellate court, explained Susanne Garfield, CEC spokesperson The commission voted on Thursday afternoon to award the $33.1 million under a contract with the Local Government Commission to support Energy Upgrade California, an efficiency and renewable energy retrofit program for single- and multi-family residential and commercial buildings. This was the final disbursement of federal stimulus funds, with the total $315 million now all encumbered, said Garfield. In other action, the commission did approve during its two-day meeting a petition to extend the lifespan of a 450 MW plant in Orange County. The unanimous decision by the commission moves the expiration date of the Huntington Beach power plant upgrade from September 30, 2011, to September 31, 2016. The change would enable AES to continue operating the Unit 3 and 4 steam turbine generators and provide energy as needed, while it goes forward with plans to build replacement infrastructure that does not rely on the existing once-through cooling system, said Energy Commission project manager Christina Snow. The extension could be further moved to December 31, 2020, if the site owner, a subsidiary of the AES Corp., submits a new application for certification for the site by June 30, 2012, and it’s approved by the end of 2012. The project, which was certified in 2001, sits on 12 acres in Huntington Beach and has four natural gas-fired turbines. In other news, CPV’s Sentinel gas-fired plant would go forward under a proposed CEC decision issued earlier this month. The Energy Commission plans to consider a construction license for the 850 MW peaker plant project on November 17. In its proposed decision, CEC found that air emissions offset credits the South Coast Air Quality Management District plans to provide CPV conform to legal requirements. In the licensing case, environmental justice groups intervened to dispute their validity. The issue is likely to flare at an upcoming CEC committee meeting on the proposed decision set for November 2. CPV has a contract to sell the plant’s output to Southern California Edison. It should take about 18 months to build.