POC Advocacy at the Public Utilities Commission
POC is currently involved in several proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), fighting to stop environmentally destructive projects, and to ensure that utilities do not pass on their unsound business decisions to ratepayers.
Fighting the Otay Mesa Energy Center: The San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) has proposed a 20 percent rate increase for 2019 in their General Rates Case (GRC) Application with the CPUC, and has proposed a 28 percent rate increase for electricity over the course of four years. As part of their GRC application, SDG&E is also seeking approval to purchase the Otay Mesa Energy Center (OMEC), a 680 megawatt power plant for the cost of $280 million. It will contribute to the rate increase if the CPUC allows SDGE to impute the cost of the purchase onto ratepayers. POC has been advocating for the closure of OMEC for years. We are currently intervening in the CPUC proceeding and challenging SFG&E’s proposed purchase of this fossil fuel power plant as unnecessary, expensive, and in contravention to new state legislative mandates requiring GHG reductions and more uses of reneweables. POC has laid out information in briefings and evidentiary hearings for the CPUC showing why the OMEC purchase is a bad deal, and bad for the environment and ratepayers. The proceeding is ongoing, and the CPUC is predicted to make its decision on whether to approve SDG&E’s purchase of OMEC Fall 2019. Read more about OMEC here.
Additionally, in November 2018, POC filed a Petition for Modification of the original CPUC decision which approved the sale of OMEC.
ILong Term Procurement Planning (LTPP)-Integrated Resource Planning (IRP): POC is intervening in the utility procurement plans for 2019, to advocate for a safe, reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly procurement policy. Specifically, POC is seeking to ensure that utilities in California like SDG&E and Southern California Edison (SCE) abide by the legislative mandates of SB 350, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and to protect disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately affected by dirty fossil fuel pollution. POC is heavily involved in this proceeding, submitting testimony, legal administrative comments and briefings at every step to provide critical information and advocacy to the CPUC.
Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA): POC is challenging utilities’ proposal of the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA), which is an exit fee charged to customers that choose another provider of electricity service through direct access or local community choice aggregation (CCA). In other words, because investor owned utilities are natural monopolies in California, the PCIA makes it harder for renewable or cleaner sources of energy to start up business, because the PCIA would increase costs for customers who wanted to go elsewhere. POC has been fighting the CPUC and utilities companies against this charge and advocating for the formation of CCAs in the San Diego region as a cleaner, more reliable source of energy. The CPUC recently approved the PCIA in October 2018, and POC filed an Application for Rehearing in November 2018 to appeal the CPUC’s approval.
Tule Wind Farm: For many years, POC has fought the development of a wind farm in located in the McCain Valley. The valley is home to virgin wild lands and is a prime breeding habitat for endangered golden eagles. The 57 wind turbines proposed in the project are a huge threat for endangered bald eagles and migratory birds because the birds fly into them, causing mortality and injury. The case was split into two pieces– Tule I and Tule ll. In Tule I, POC challenged the California State Lands Commission in 2012 to deny a lease for this inefficient, destructive project in the Southern District of California and ultimately appealed to the Ninth Circuit in 2016. Unfortunately, both courts approved the wind farm’s right of way to develop and operate the wind farm project, and the Tule Wind Farm commenced operations in 2018. Tule II is is currently being appealed to the 9th Circuit. Read more here.
California Wildfires: Last year, devasting wildfires blazed through the state, destroying the entire town of Paradise, and causing billions worth of damages. As of January 2019, POC has become an intervening party in several of the CPUC’s proceedings addressing the devastating wildfires that damaged California throughout 2018. POC is analyzing the wildfire mitigation plans of utilities to ensure that their wildfire prevention plans are sound for the environment, animals, and ratepayers. POC is also analyzing policies that would mandate the utilities de-electrify their utility lines during dangerous conditions and analyzing what would be a fair and equitable cost responsibility in regards to utitlities’ wildfire liability. POC will hold utilities’ feet to the fire to do more to protect Californians and ratepayers from fire risks.
WEMA Fire Recovery: Ten years ago, the Witch, Guejito and Rice forest fires blazed through San Diego, burning over 198,000 acres and destroying over 1300 homes. The utilities’ power lines caused $379 million in damage costs that SDG&E tried to pass onto ratepayers in the form of increased utilities rates. POC has been fighting SDG&E’s attempts, and intervened in the CPUC proceeding in which SDG&E tried to recover their costs. Thanks to POC’s intervention, the CPUC ruled in 2017 that SDG&E did not reasonably manage and operate its facilities that caused the three fires, and denied cost recovery. SDG&E also appealed this denial to the California Supreme Court and their appeal was also denied in November 2018.
As of April 30, 2019, SDG&E petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal what the CPUC and the California Appeals Court had already determined to be their negligence for the cause of the 2007 Witch fires. POC is going to continue to fight them every step of the way! Read more here!