California Public Utilities Commission president Mike Peevey chastised the commission's administrative law judge division for its propensity to deliberate on key issues. Peevey said that the commission's decision making has been hampered by unnecessary delay for years. The public reprimand came after unanimous approval of a proposed decision sponsored by Peevey that competed with one by an administrative law judge on rules for natural gas supplies and quality September 21. Approval of the alternate decision sends "a clear message that we want to take action," Peevey said. "I hope our ALJ division takes notice" and desists from issuing proposals that take "an undue amount of time," he said. "We have to make tough calls," added commissioner John Bohn. The two proposals before the commission this week arose out of a gas rulemaking initiated in January 2004. That hearing process was divided into two phases. Both Peevey and administrative law judge Steve Weissman proposed many regulatory changes to the state's gas infrastructure. The September 21 ruling addresses the second phase, which includes establishing gas quality standards and their impacts on pipelines, power plants, and end users' equipment. It also approves agreements for liquefied natural gas providers, which are considered a critical source of needed additional fuel. A significant difference between Peevey's alternate and the one pitched by Weissman was that the former found that the market couldn't wait for more studies (Circuit, Aug. 13, 2006). Peevey concluded that the California Environmental Quality Act - and its impact assessment - did not apply and thus no additional scrutiny was needed. Changes that the adopted rulemaking makes include: - Approving an interconnection agreement for liquefied natural gas providers. - Adopting a backbone transmission planning standard that adopts consideration of a one-in-ten cold year average demand for the investor-owned utilities. - Rejecting SoCal Gas's proposed revisions to its open-season rules on local transmission capacity. - Backing the creation of an Infrastructure Working Group to monitor system use and identify expansion needs. In other commission news, the CPUC voted to allow Pacific Gas & Electric to amend a renewable energy contract signed in 2004. The agreement involves 108 GWh of wind power in the Altamont Pass. The project was caught up in permit delays arising from controversies over all the Altamont wind projects' impacts to birds. The revised agreement for the 43 MW Buena Vista project, expected to come on line at the end of this year, shortens the length of the contract to 10 years from the original 15 years, and raises the price. The cost of the wind power, which was not revealed, is not above the renewables market referent price and thus will not tap into supplemental energy payments, according to the CPUC. The five commissioners also came out in strong opposition to Proposition 90. The ballot measure, set for a vote in November, would create financial liability for regulatory agencies and limit the government's ability to condemn land. The CPUC issued a legal analysis that warned that the measure could significantly delay and drive up the cost of utility infrastructure projects (Circuit, Sept. 15, 2006). "I can't think of anything more destructive to getting transmission infrastructure built," said commissioner Dian Grueneich. She said the proposition was "almost an abuse of our system when it is so clearly destructive to California." At the end of the meeting, Peevey called out PG&E's plan to spend up to $14 million for expanding renewable energy trades between British Columbia and California. According to the CPUC president, PG&E believes there is 10,000 MW of wind and hydroelectric power available from the province by 2020. The commission placed PG&E's request on an expedited track for approval.