Legislation Focuses on CPUC Presidency

By Published On: June 20, 2008

Legislation to dilute the power of the California Public Utility Commission president advanced June 17 with its approval by the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee. The bill, AB 1973 authored by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D-Los Altos), requires Senate confirmation of the Governor’s appointee to the presidency and also specifies that the staff of the agency reports to the whole commission, not just the president. Democrats on the committee backed the measure and Republicans split. “I understand what Senator Ruskin is trying to do,” said Senator Dave Cox (R-Jackson), “but not what problem he’s trying to solve.” Senator Jim Battin (R-Palm Desert) supports the bill, which is moving through the Legislature against a backdrop of rising concern over high utility bills. (See Juice column.) The CPUC opposes the bill. “It will further politicize the appointment of the president,” said Pam Loomis, commission director of legislative affairs, adding that “to have five bosses instead of one would make it less efficient.” The panel also approved AB 1763, authored by Assemblymember Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo), which would require more information, including graphic displays, on bills sent by electric utilities that explain the tiered rate structure to help customers decide how to save energy and money. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates supported the measure. Other bills approved by the panel include: -AB 625, authored by Assembly member Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), which allocates money the state received from an electricity crisis era settlement with Williams to energy efficiency retrofits on public college and university campuses; -AB 873, authored by Assemblymember Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles), which enhances opportunities for minority, woman, and disabled veteran owned businesses to contract with utilities; -AB 1755, authored by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes (D-Arleta), which could result in utilities being able to hold rights of way needed for future transmission lines for a longer period of time; -AB 1851, authored by Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), which sets standards for the sale of voluntary carbon emissions offsets; -AB 2176, by Assemblymember Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), which conditions allocations of federal energy efficiency block grant funds within the state; -AB 2309, by Assemblymember Mark DeSaulnier (D-Martinez), which requires energy utilities by law to perform residential energy audits, even though the companies already perform such audits under CPUC policy; -AB 2404, by Assemblymember Mary Salas (D-Chula Vista), which requires the CPUC to prepare a report on joint opportunities for enhancing water and energy efficiency; -AB 2432, by Assemblymember John Laird (D-Monterey), which mandates the state’s Public Interest Energy Research program, administered by the California Energy Commission, to focus on climate change as well as energy; -AB 2791, authored by Blakeslee, which promotes use of combined heat and power generating plants (cogeneration) at government facilities; and -AB 2857, authored by Assemblymember Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View), which makes it easier for people living in mobile home parks to access the California Alternate Rates for Energy program, which gives low income customers a discount on their utility bills. The committee also approved two measures to clean up the existing state energy code, AB 3048, authored by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, and AB 2578, authored by Assemblymember Ted Lieu (D-El Segundo).

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