Thursday, June 09, 2005

Energy Plan Sparks Sacramento Controversey

The Governor's plan to consolidate the State's Energy Agencies, once set in motion, will have sixty days to be debated by the Legislature. From the looks of it, those will be a long, hot two months:

As California’s electricity supply tightens with summer weather ahead, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will send a state-energy-agency reorganization plan to the Legislature next week that critics say favors big energy companies at public expense.

The administration maintains it is not out to compromise the public interest, but only to streamline the state’s complicated, multiagency energy bureaucracy and encourage construction of the new electric transmission lines and gas pipelines that energy firms say are needed to keep the lights on in California. “This reorganization improves accountability, focuses the development of energy policy, reduces fragmentation and duplication, and improves communications,” said Joe Desmond, chairman of the California Energy Commission.

But consumer advocates and some Democratic members of the Legislature charge that Schwarzenegger’s plan will concentrate power and limit consumer advocacy in determining whether utilities can pass on billions of dollars of project costs to California households and businesses. They also say the plan will do little to address the squeeze on California’s energy supply. “It’s really fiddling while Rome burns,” said state Senator Joe Dunn (D–Garden Grove).