CPUC Under Fire for Oakley Approval

Appeal Accuses Commission of Pandering to PG&E

For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network

Consumer advocates filed a rare court appeal of a California Public Utilities Commission decision late yesterday.  TURN is asking the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, to overturn the CPUC’s approval of PG&E’s proposed Oakley power plant.  The outgoing Schwarzenegger CPUC was in such a rush to approve the plant that it failed to require evidence that PG&E would actually need the electricity from plant once it was built.

Remarkably, the Commission had previously rejected the plant just a few months earlier, finding that it simply would not be needed by 2015, as PG&E had claimed. But PG&E refused to take “no” for an answer from the normally compliant Commission. Rather than go back to the drawing board, as had been recommended in the CPUC’s original decision, PG&E simply erased and changed the dates on its proposal so the plant would be finished by 2016 instead of 2015. Although the Commission’s own administrative law judge roundly rejected that approach, a majority of Commissioners voted to approve it at their last meeting of 2010, despite myriad procedural irregularities.

“PG&E invited the CPUC to make a mockery of its approval process, and the CPUC happily accepted the invitation,” said TURN legal director Bob Finkelstein.  Finkelstein said that after the lengthy proceeding analyzing the need for the plant failed to justify approval, the Commission inexplicably allowed PG&E to simply pick a new date.  Over parties’ objections, the Commission re-wrote its decision, ruling that the plant was needed for 2016, and voted on it just a few days later.  Interested parties were neither served with the revised decision nor allowed to challenge the abruptly changed date.  “It appears that the Commission was so set on approving this plant and doing what PG&E wanted that it was willing to sacrifice its own procedures as well as any public process,” Finkelstein said.

TURN is determined to stop the unnecessary plant, which would cost PG&E’s customers over $200 million annually for decades to come. Citing previous decisions annulling CPUC decisions made in violation of procedural rules preventing consideration of issues outside of the scope of a proceeding, TURN’s petition urges annulment of the Oakley approval.