CPUC’s Kennedy Moves to Governor’s Office

By Published On: December 2, 2005

California Public Utilities Commission member Susan Kennedy accepted the post of the governor’s chief of staff November 30, noting that she “can’t find a lot of difference” between her own moderate ways as a Democrat and those of moderate Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I’m willing to risk my political career to do what’s right,” Kennedy said. She officially moves to the Capitol on January 1, but Schwarzenegger made it clear that she is already on duty. For state energy policy, “The biggest question will be who replaces her at the CPUC,” said V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. Sources who asked not to be named said repeatedly that Kennedy will be key in picking her successor. In presenting Kennedy, Schwarzenegger repeated that the state needs new infrastructure, such as levees. However, he did not mention that infrastructure investments would include energy facilities. The only energy reference in his upcoming State of the State speech is expected to be to energy agency consolidation. After the governor’s unsuccessful special election initiatives November 8, it was clear that he would shake up his staff. Those who backed the losing election lost influence, according to Capitol watchers. Others, such as cabinet secretary Terry Tamminen – a knowledgeable progressive on energy issues – are said to be ascending in influence. Tamminen, however, told Circuit that there has been little dissension in the ranks at the governor’s office about moving toward more renewable energy, just differences about how to go about it. According to Tamminen, Kennedy would help implement the governor’s energy policies, but would not fundamentally change them. “The governor remains committed to pursuing clean power,” he said. “The governor set pretty clear goals and policies, and we’ve all been implementing them,” Tamminen said. He cited Schwarzenegger?s commitment with other Western governors to seeing 30,000 MW of renewable power in the West, the Million Solar Roofs program now moving forward at the CPUC, and the hydrogen highways initiative. Tamminen said the commission’s Million Solar Roofs program in the works “very closely mirrors” SB 1 – the failed legislation supposed to implement 3,000 MW of new solar energy. The cabinet secretary suggested it may not be necessary for the Legislature to lift the current cap on net metering to achieve the Million Solar Roofs goal. Utilities might agree to lifting the cap on a cooperative basis without changes in law, he said. Others counter that Tamminen has faced an uphill struggle in the quest for renewable power. “Terry Tamminen has had to wage a battle internally,” said Bernadette del Chiaro. While Kennedy may be more supportive of Tamminen’s advocacy for renewable energy and environmental protection, she also will be concerned about the impacts on California?s business community, del Chiaro said. Kennedy is pro-competition and pro-direct access, and has supported energy efficiency and renewables, noted Jan Smutny-Jones, Independent Energy Producers executive director. Kennedy’s colleagues at the commission agreed on one thing – that she is capable of getting things done. “I gotta say: you’re tough,” said commissioner Geoffrey Brown. “If there’s any person that’s capable” of achieving consensus in Sacramento, “it’s you,” he added. Some Republicans chastised the governor for his choice, calling Kennedy a leftie and bemoaning her background of supporting abortion rights and her lesbian relationship. The appointment is a “betrayal of the hard working activists that supported the Governor during the recent special election,” stated Mike Spence, California Republican Assembly president. She has “worked contrary to Republican candidates and beliefs.” Consumer groups applauded her departure from the commission. “We’re all chuckling about the right-wingers who are squawking and calling her a ‘far-left liberal.’ If they only knew!” said Mike Florio, The Utility Reform Network senior attorney. Schwarzenegger noted the fuss, but said that of the people he spoke to about the appointment, only 5 percent were upset with it.

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