California Utility Commissioners Deliberate In Public And Private Meetings In San Diego
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Aired 3/20/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Jim Waring, executive chairman, CleanTECH San Diego
Aired 3/20/13 on KPBS News.
An invitation-only meeting with California’s Public Utility Commissioners today in La Jolla is generating protests. The meeting comes one day before a public meeting where the PUC will make important decisions about new power plants in San Diego.
CPUC Meeting Attendees
The Public Utilities Commission has promised to hold a public meeting in San Diego soon about whether rate payers should continue to pay for the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant. But today the agency is holding a private, invitation-only meeting in La Jolla, one day before a public meeting where Commissioners will decide about three new gas powered plants in San Diego.
Bill Powers, an energy consultant, applied to attend today’s meeting and was initially accepted. However he was subsequently told the meeting was full. The CPUC said it plans to hold the meeting in three groups with about 20 people in each.
Powers said the decision to hold a private stakeholders meeting might go unnoticed except that so many major issues are on the table that affect San Diego’s energy future.
“These are momentous discussions for local people of all stripes,” he said, “and to have it reduced to only a handful of invitation-only folks who get to meet with the commissioners individually - that I definitely interpret as a violation of the Bagley Keene Open Meeting Act.”
Former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre filed for an injunction to stop the meeting in Superior Court, but the judge on Monday said the decision is not within his jurisdiction. Aguirre said he plans to file an appeal.
The CPUC said nothing on the agenda of the public meeting on Thursday will be discussed at the private meeting on Wednesday, and there will never be more than two commissioners in the room with each group. That avoids violating the state’s open meeting laws. The agency has held similar meetings in other California cities with no complaints. A spokesman would not reveal who was on the list of people invited to attend the meeting in La Jolla, nor is the media allowed to cover the event.
Jim Waring, CEO of Clean TECH, a non-profit industry group that works to promote sustainable business practices, helped the CPUC organize the private meeting. He himself is not attending. When asked what the participants will discuss if they cannot touch on issues before the commissioners, he said it will be very general.
“They have an informal discussion of issues that are not on the agenda,” he said, “you might have a general discussion around solar deployment or wind deployment. It is just an informal exchange of ideas and information.”
At their public meeting on Thursday, the Commissioners will vote on new “peaker” power plants, that could be fired up in the event that enough power is not being generated elsewhere. San Diego city council has voted against the proposed Quail Brush peaker plant near Santee. Another peaker plant, Pio Pico in Otay Mesa, is opposed by groups who say building the plants will reduce the incentive to develop more rooftop solar.
Meanwhile a date has yet to be set for a public hearing in San Diego on the ongoing investigation into San Onofre’s problems.