QUAIL BRUSH HEARING MOVED TO SAN DIEGO MARCH 21: ENVIRONMENTAL LEADER ACCUSES CPUC CHAIR OF ILLEGAL ACTION, CALLS FOR PEEVEY’S RECUSAL FROM VOTE

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By Miriam Raftery

March 4, 2013 (San Diego) – The California Public Utilities Commission has announced that it has moved a hearing on the Quail Brush power plant from San Francisco to San Diego .  The hearing, at which a vote is expected, is set for March 21 at the Conference Center Hearing Room, 5520 Overland Ave., San Diego 92123 Click for Map

The announcement comes after five postponements of the hearing, amid allegations that CPUC's Chairman violated state open meetings law to exert undue influence; project opponents are calling for his recusal from the vote.

The California Energy Commission, meanwhile, has cancelled a public workshop set for March 3 at Grossmont College. 

Quail Brush, a gas-fired power plant proposed near Mission Trails Regional Park, has generated strong community opposition. Save Mission Trails, an activist group battling the project, has announced it plans to stage a rally at 8 a.m. prior to the 9 a.m. hearing.

Votes will also be held on the Pio Pio power plant slated for Otay Mesa and a third peaker gas power plant proposed for Escondido. Watch for updates at www.savemissiontrails.org.

A post at Preserve Wild Santee offers insights into the repeated delays.

Unexpectedly, President Peevey pulled the item on the San Diego-area power plants from the agenda last week, the site states, calling the move “odd”  because Mark Ferron, the commissioner assigned to SDG&E’s application, had already revised his Proposed Decision to move it to a vote. 

The post goes on to accuse CPUC Chairman Michael Peevey of inappropriate communication in violation of state law as he attempted to influence another member:

“This unfortunate and extraordinary delay demonstrates the power of insider lobbying by SDG&E and its partners.[2] However, what is extremely troublesome is that documents have come to light showing that CPUC President Peevey solicited highly inappropriate intermediary communications to the entire Commission that seriously degrades the integrity of the process,” said Van Collinsworth, Preserve Wild Santee’s executive director. “The letter that was solicited from CEC Chairman Robert Weisenmiller to promote Commissioner Peevey’s pro-gas agenda is an action prohibited by the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. The best way to restore integrity to the proceeding now is for Commissioner Peevey to recuse himself from the vote.”

A formal motion to request Commissioner Peevey’s recusal was filed on February 26, by Attorney Todd Cardiff (on behalf of Helping Hand Tools). A Public Records Act Request forced release of emails that document the inappropriate intermediary communications.[3]

Commissioner Peevey clearly used Mr. Weisenmiller as a personal intermediary to communicate displeasure with CPUC Commissioner Mark Ferron’s Proposed Decision to deny the dirty power PPTAs. Peevey’s solicitation was intended to remain hidden. If it had, it would appear that CEC Chairman Wesisenmiller was taking a highly unusual action of objecting to a CPUC Proposed Decision on his own accord.[4]

Now there are two CPUC Commissioners that have a demonstrated lack of impartiality – newly appointed Commissioner Carla Peterman who previously voted in favor of Pio Pico at the CEC and CPUC President Michael Peevey.

“Governor Brown and all CPUC Commissioners should be concerned about maintaining public confidence in state decision-making that can be shattered from the use of inappropriate maneuvers by insiders,” said Van Collinsworth of Preserve Wild Santee.