TURN Defeats Unneeded Power Plant, Saves Customers Millions

TURN saves millions for California customers by stopping PG&E’s plans to build a power plant in Oakley

For Immediate Release from TURN, The Utility Reform Network

Contact: Mindy Spatt, 415.929.8876, ext. 306

Friday, March 16, 2012, San Francisco—TURN won a major victory for California consumers today when the California Court of Appeal agreed to reverse a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decision approving a new PG&E power plant in Oakley, California. TURN had challenged the decision as a transparent attempt to side-step consumer concerns by allowing PG&E to move ahead with a plant despite a Commission finding that PG&E didn’t need the plant. The Court agreed with TURN’s arguments across the board, ruling that the CPUC had failed to proceed in the legally required manner and reversing the decision.

The Commission had initially rejected the proposed plant, finding that it simply would not be needed by 2015, as PG&E had originally claimed. But PG&E refused to take “no” for an answer. Rather than go back to the drawing board, PG&E erased and changed the dates on its proposal so the plant would be finished by 2016 instead of 2015. Although a CPUC administrative law judge roundly rejected that approach, a majority of Commissioners approved it at their last meeting of 2010, literally days before the expiration of the term for two Schwarzenegger appointees.

“The Oakley decisions looked to be an attempt to approve a preferred project before the Commission’s line-up changed in 2011,” said TURN executive director Mark Toney. “We are glad the Court of Appeal agreed with TURN that the ends do not justify the means, especially where the means involve such a trampling of the regulatory process.”

The Court called the CPUC to task for failing to serve its revised decision on the parties or allow a meaningful opportunity to comment. The Court said “This apparent attempt to minimize public input lends further credence to TURN‘s contention that the Commission had become so enamored of the project, it was willing to dispense with the procedural safeguards established by its rules and the statutes in order “to achieve its preferred outcome.”

Toney said TURN’s legal victory would translate into millions in savings for PG&E customers. “This plant would have cost customers over $200 million annually, an unjustified burden on PG&E’s ratepayers. TURN welcomes the ratepayer relief provided by the Court of Appeal today.”