The Sacramento Municipal Utility District got the green light to power Sacramento County's wastewater treatment plant expansion being built across the river in Yolo County-in Pacific Gas & Electric territory. The Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) voted 5-0 December 1 to allow SMUD to annex the undeveloped 15-acre parcel to serve a 10 MW pumping station. "We're very disappointed" with the decision, said PG&E spokesperson Jann Taber. "PG&E's transmission alternative would have been less expensive and more reliable" than the distribution plan anticipated by the Sacramento muni. The investor-owned utility also opposed the deal because it would represent a foothold in its service territory. There has been a big push for public power in neighboring Yolo County cities, including Davis, which would erode PG&E's exclusivity. Although PG&E claims the territory, there are no PG&E poles or wires within the unincorporated parcel in West Sacramento. A LAFCO staff report recommended that SMUD serve the pumping station for the very reasons cited by PG&E-cost and reliability,according to Peter Brundage, LAFCO executive officer. Outage management was also a concern, he said, because the activity of some 86 pumps must be coordinated in the event of a shutdown. Apparently, SMUD would be confined to the small annexation, as LAFCO's report also states that the muni's service plan lacks the capacity to serve new development in the territory surrounding the pump station and that the station is prohibited from serving new homes because it is a "transmission facility." Brundage appeared unfazed by the unanimous tally on the matter at Wednesday's board meeting. "I don't count votes," he said. "I do the best I can to be objective and let the commission decide." The Sacramento County Sanitation District sought to have SMUD provide power to the new facility to avoid having to deal with two utilities, allowing for better coordination of the county treatment plants and at a lower cost (Circuit, Jan. 30, 2004). The sanitation district's pump station is part of a larger sewage transmission treatment pipeline that will serve the city of West Sacramento, as well as cities and unincorporated areas of Sacramento County. West Sacramento's old wastewater treatment plant will be closed, and the new pump station is expected to reduce wastewater discharges into the Sacramento River and "ensure a higher quality of treated effluent," according to the LAFCO report. PG&E's Taber said the utility has not yet determined whether it will take steps to block this week?s decision from taking effect. According to LAFCO assistant executive director Don Lockhart, the local agency formation commission is "quasi-judicial" and its actions can be overturned only through litigation. SMUD spokesperson Dace Udris said the muni is "pleased" with this week' decision and that it in essence allows SMUD to continue its "long-standing partnership" with the local sanitation district. SMUD expects to begin serving the planned pumping station in September 2005. In related news, the consultant developing the study assessing the costs and benefits of SMUD annexing West Sacramento, Davis, Woodland, and Yolo County delayed the report's release. The $500,000 study being conducted by R.W. Beck and paid for by SMUD and affected Yolo County cities was stalled because new information arrived that affects the analysis. Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted rules on exit fees for former customers of investor-owned utilities that switch to a public power agency (Circuit, Nov. 29, 2004), and PG&E submitted revised data on the electric service of the communities at issue. "The impact of PG&E's revisions and the CPUC decision will need to be evaluated and reflected in the study," stated SMUD. The release date for the annexation feasibility study is January 14, 2005.