CEC?s Energy Report Sidelined

By Published On: February 26, 2005

As the clock is running on the introduction of new legislation, the governor?s ongoing silence on the California Energy Commission?s 2004 Integrated Energy Policy Report released last November has grown deafening. Mandated by statute in 2002, the commission?s annual report is intended to guide the executive office and legislators in energy-related decision making. The 2004 iteration attempted to grab policy makers? attention in part by spotlighting potential supply shortages in Southern California this summer that have since drawn more concern. Joe Desmond, the state?s energy czar and top adviser to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the governor?s office has obtained final comments on the report from affected departments. Desmond, however, declined to specify when his boss will respond. Meanwhile, the commission has scheduled more than 20 workshops in preparation for the 2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report. Schwarzenegger?s office did not return calls on the matter. The governor is ?defeating the purpose of SB 1389,? which authorized the CEC?s report in 2002, by not recognizing the report, said Lawrence Lingbloom, adviser to the Senate energy committee. The purpose of the legislation was to ?revive a public process for energy planning,? he stressed. Instead, the administration is developing an energy process shielded from public review, he said. Despite the governor?s failure to recognize the CEC?s reports, the agency?s recommendations have made their way into legislation. This week, Senator Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) introduced SB 1059, which would authorize the commission to establish transmission corridors. This measure is intended to inform local land-use decisions. In related developments, a plan to fold the CEC into an Infrastructure Department that would cover water, energy, and transportation is on hold?at least for now. That recommendation, which would put the commission directly under the executive office?s oversight, is one of many generated by the California Performance Review. The governor commissioned that effort last year, aiming to ?blow up boxes? of state government. Schwarzenegger withdrew the reorganization proposal on February 17, saying it will ?benefit from further review? in a cryptic one-paragraph letter to the Little Hoover Commission. Little Hoover is a state agency that conducted public hearings on the overhaul plan. According to a February 24 Field poll, voters narrowly support the governor?s threat to call a special election if the Legislature refuses to approve his reform proposals. A slim majority, 53 percent, of California voters favor proposals to consolidate many state boards and commissions into fewer and larger agencies. Yet once voters are told of the special election?s $50 million to $70 million cost, they reject the idea by a greater than two-to-one margin.

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