By Miriam Raftery
March 13, 2013 (San Diego)—The law firm of former City Attorney Mike Aguirre has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Masada Disenhouse seeking an injunction to halt the California Public Utilities Commission from holding a closed-door , invitation-only meeting with energy industry stakeholders at the Scripps Seaside Forum in San Diego on March 20. Disenhouse asked to attend, but her name was removed from the list.
“California Government Code section 11123 requires that all meetings of a state body shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of a state body,” the lawsuit states. The suit further notes that Government Code section 11120 requires that “proceedings of public agencies be conducted openly so that the people may be informed.”
The statute, known as the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act further states, “The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.”
The California Attorney General identifies the forum to be held at the Scripps Seaside Forum as a meeting that must be open to the public per the Bagley-Keene Open meeting law.
The CPUC has come under increasing fire since Michael Peevey became president in 2002. A recent column in the San Diego Daily Transcript by sundicated columnist Thomas Elias titled “Are utility regulators creating a banana republic?” cites numerous examples where the commission “has taken care of big utilities and power producers at the expense of ordinary citizens, called `ratepayers’ in utility parlance.”
For example, the CPUC forced customers to foot most of the bill to fix pipelines after the 2010 explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno, even though Pacific Gas & Electric Co. took responsibility for the blast.
Now the CPUC is weighing approval of three gas-fired “peaker” power plants in San Diego County. Peevey asked the head of the California Energy Commission to send a letter supporting his claim that one of them, Pio Pico, is needed – even though it’s not. The CPUC’s own administrative law judge found there is no need for this new plant or any other until at least 2018. Moreover, even if San Onofre stays permanently shut down, by late this summer, Southern California will have ecess generating capacity of 30 percent and Northern California nearly 40 percent.
Pio Pico would cost ratepayers $80-$90 million each year, or $1.5 billion over the next 20 years—with profits flowing to SDG&E.