The <i>Grid Vine</i>

By Published On: December 19, 2004

Seeing the holiday cheer through the overly bright lights and shopping pressures is quite a chore, but thanks to the eggnog and mulled wine, Dr. Snarky Sparks keeps on squinting through the glare. She had ingested large quantities of boozy brew to reap the latest buzz, particularly on the burning issue of picks for the soon-to-be vacated California Public Utilities Commission posts given that the governor expects to get far more energy action out of the commission than from the Legislature. Before the announcement on December 16 of the new CPUC appointments, Snarky?s trusty deep?albeit scratchy?throats informed her that the butt-kicking, grope-free Arnie wanted one of the two new members to be a woman and the other to have telecommunications expertise. And wouldn?t you know it, that is just what happened. As predicted, long-time energy attorney Dian Grueneich, who has represented direct-access, consumer, and environmental groups, was selected. Grueneich?s name was the one most frequently cited for female contenders, and she was in the running the last time there were openings. Grueneich, a Democrat, will lend some sartorial elegance to the usually drab, and sometimes rumpled, panel. The other slot will be filled by Steve Poizer, a high school teacher and founder of a cell phone company, Snap Track, which was ingested by Qualcomm in 2000. After his company was bought, he worked with the White House/National Security Council Office of Cyberspace for two years. He recently ran for the Assembly spending loads of money on television advertising. You can probably guess his party affiliation. There have been no indications that the head of state wants to demote CPUC prez Mike Peevey, but if that were to occur, surely our gov would have another vacancy to fill. Laura Doll, the qualified former executive director of the California Power Authority, is said to be slated for CPUC director of strategic planning. Hiring is said to be delayed because she was not a state employee but a contractor, which allowed her to reap a paycheck much higher than other state execs, while head of the now defunct authority. And the state bureaucratic wheels are not known for their lightning speed. Unlike some other medical conditions, the test results have been confirmed regarding the new heads of the energy committees on both sides of the state aisles. The new chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Commerce Committee is Senator Martha Escutia (D-Whittier). Escutia, who is also head of the Latino Caucus, is known for her legislation to improve public input into and access to the CPUC. In fact, once or twice a month she gets a room named for her at the CPUC. ?The ?Escutia Room? materializes next to the CPUC auditorium on business meeting days. There, the document-hungry can graze at the copy buffet for iterations of proposed decisions and background materials that Escutia legislation required about a decade back. Former chair of the Senate energy committee Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach) is the new head of the Senate Elections Committee, which puts her in a dandy spot given her plans to run for secretary of state. She will remain a member of the energy committee, according to her staff. Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) is the new chair of the Assembly energy committee, replacing the brassy Sarah Reyes (D-Fresno), who was termed out. Levine is considered progressive, fairly strong on environmental protection, and a loyalist to Assembly speaker Fabian N??ez (D-Los Angeles). ?He has been pretty good on consumer protection,? said Lenny Goldberg, TURN lobbyist. Levine, who is not known to take firm stances, will have to stake out his own ground. That will not be easy given N??ez?s strong interest in energy issues. The new chair, however, insists that turf will not be an issue, noting that his and the speaker?s agendas are aligned. We will see what happens when put to the test of time. While on the topic of N??ez, parts of his failed deregulation-lite legislation, AB 2006, are expected to reappear next year. That includes the provision that would extend resource adequacy to all load-serving entities?public and private, large and small. After months of hearing rumors that PG&E Corp.?s head honcho Bob Glynn was being prodded toward the door, his exit became official this week. Glynn did not win friends and influence investors by padding his bank account with nearly $19 million in bonuses this year. Meanwhile, common shareholders have been left high and dry since January 2001, and let?s not go into the hit on lowly ratepayers. And just in case you were wondering, the plot thickens regarding alleged contract fraud by public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. The latest in the alleged $4.2 million excess billing scandal is that former department chief administrative officer Frank Salas ignored warnings from internal auditors as early as 2002 that the $24 million public relations contract was overdue for a checkup. Salas, who retired earlier this year amid multiple investigations into the matter, approved disputed bills submitted by the firm totaling $330,000 that year and continued to authorize routine payments. Meanwhile, contestants in the Los Angeles mayoral election have made political hay out of the scandal, pointing out that much of the work performed by the firm was only tangential to the department, but carefully crafted to embellish the public image of James Hahn, the city?s mayor. As the investigations into the contract continue in the politically charged atmosphere of the upcoming election, the city has filed a lawsuit against Fleishman-Hillard and its former Los Angeles office manager Doug Dowie, who quickly was axed when the scandal broke. In the meantime, they all are surely getting their share of eggnog and holiday cookies. And on that note, Snarky would like to wish all her beloved patients?curable pessimists and incurable romantics?a very merry and healthy-as-can-be-hoped-for holiday season.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now