A state Senate budget subcommittee is pushing the Schwarzenegger administration for an energy agency staffing increase to carry out California's climate change initiative as part of next year?s state budget. The administration proposed transferring California Public Utilities Commission staff members from existing programs to work on climate change programs. \t Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles) at an April 3 Senate Budget Committee subcommittee meeting urged that the commission hire new staff members. \t The governor's proposed budget would redirect 12 CPUC positions to support activities related to the climate change initiative. These include coordinating the initiative and accelerating the renewables portfolio standard. They also involve promoting distributed generation, cogeneration, and energy efficiency; tracking greenhouse gas emissions; developing an emissions cap-and-trade program; and increasing use of green technology in state buildings. \t The positions are now assigned to the commission?s Energy Division and consumer protection pay phone program. \t Last month, Kuehl complained that the proposed budget would shift Division of Ratepayer Advocates staff from energy to water and telecommunications matters (Circuit, March 10, 2006). \t In other action, the panel approved budget plans to add six new staff positions at the California Energy Commission. Two are for information technology services and another two for government affairs. The final two staff positions would be for verifying and evaluating energy-efficiency savings. \t The subcommittee also put off recommending that the governor's plan provide $612,000 to fund four new positions at the CEC devoted to the climate change initiative, as well as $200,000 for contracts related to the plan. At the same time, it deferred approval of the CEC's five-year Public Interest Energy Research natural gas program. It would earmark $3 million out of a total of $15 million for transportation-related projects. \t CEC chair Joe Desmond told the committee that the commission will approve the PIER natural gas plan on April 26. He said that his agency had carefully coordinated the draft plan with the California Air Resources Board. \t The budget subcommittee said, however, that it will wait to approve earmarking the funds until it sees a final natural gas research plan and learns more about coordination with the Air Board.