The California Court of Appeals granted the Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC) and the Center for Biological Diversity petition for review of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approval of the Carlsbad Power Plant late yesterday. The decision by the First District Court of Appeals presents a rare opportunity for citizens to obtain judicial review of a CPUC decision, an agency clouded by scandal of overly cozy relationships with the utilities it is charged with regulating but uniquely protected from judicial review.
Unlike challenges to the decisions of other state agencies, challenges to actions by the CPUC and the California Energy Commission (CEC) can only be brought by a petition for writ review where litigants must ask for an appellate court’s permission to bring the case. Citizens have long struggles to have their cases heard – since 1996, 22 cases have been attempted against the CEC regarding power plant approval and the California Supreme Court has denied all. While the Court of Appeals has accepted an occasional CPUC case for review, just last week it denied review of a very similar case against the CPUC for approval of contracts for three new power plants in the Los Angeles area (Los Cerritos Wetlands Trust v. CPUC.)
“Unfortunately, citizens are thwarted at every turn in attempts to hold accountable those agencies responsible for permitting the rampant development of fossil fueled power plants on our precious coastline,” says April Rose Sommer, POC Executive Director. “In this case, we are thrilled that the CPUC’s illegal actions in permitting this unneeded and dirty power plant will be reviewed by the courts.”
The Carlsbad Power Plant is a proposed natural gas plant located on the beach in Carlsbad, San Diego County directly adjacent to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The plant would use water from the Lagoon, home to many protected wildlife species and would harm the surrounding fragile coastal and wetland habitat as well as the health and quality of life of those living nearby.
“The proposed Carlsbad power plant is the wrong technology, in the wrong place, at the wrong time,” says Sommer. “We do not need any new fossil fueled power plants and we do not need any further development of our fragile coastlines. What we do need is to fulfill our legal and moral imperative to wean ourselves off our greenhouse gas addiction and transition to a sustainable energy system and the Court’s actions are a step in that right direction.”