The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee began looking into the growing conflict between state’s three major power companies and the stampede of cities that are entering the energy market in order to compete with them.

San Diego is among the cities that may enter the energy market to become a community choice aggregator, or CCA. If the city did, it would buy power for the city’s 1.4 million residents, rather than San Diego Gas & Electric. In a recent study, the city found it could provide greener power at a lower cost.

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But Sen. Ben Hueso, the San Diego Democrat who chairs the committee, said he worries some cities – particularly small ones – are getting in over their heads.

“I’m concerned that we’re creating a system that is going to be ungovernable and shifting responsibilities into agencies that can’t sustain them, and eventually see a domino effect of closures of these CCAs that could lead to a collapse of our system,” he said at a Wednesday hearing.

So far, there have been no major missteps by any of the CCAs in California, though the oldest of them has been around less than a decade. Indeed, the legislation that allows them to form in California was created in response to the energy crisis, where it was the existing power companies that screwed up.

But legislators perhaps did not understand how popular the government agencies would become. In coming years, they may supply as much if not more power than the power companies.

That worries fans of centralized control of the electrical grid. They argue California’s energy policies are best set at the state level and that a cavalcade of cities may create chaos and instability.

Michael Picker, chairman of the state’s Public Utilities Commission, compared the CCAs to California’s experience with deregulation that led to the energy crisis: “We’re being deregulated from the bottom up and there is no real clear plan about how it fits together.”

Geof Syphers, the head of a CCA in the San Francisco Bay Area, said agencies like his are trying to create local jobs, move fast to combat climate change and are better able to help their communities than power companies.

Ry Rivard

Anderson Defends Bar Bill as Opponents Speak Out

Groups opposed to SB 384, a bill by Sens. Scott Weiner and Joel Anderson that would allow bars to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. if certain conditions are met, are ramping up their efforts.

Community groups and members of the Alcohol Policy Alliance spoke out against the bill earlier this week at a press conference in San Diego.

In a press release, a former chair of the Pacific Beach Planning Group said the promises of local control built into the bill – local governments would need to create a plan identifying the area eligible for extended hours and assess the impact on public safety, and the plans must be approved by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control – are “bait to lure in potential supporters.”

Anderson said in a response statement that the local controls are legitimate, and that the measures being suggested by the bill’s opponents aren’t realistic.

“Sen. Wiener and I crafted SB 384 with layers of protections in place that ensure locals, law enforcement, and community leaders all have to agree before the proposal goes to the ABC for further review,” Anderson said in the statement. “This bill will allow tourist destinations an opportunity to apply to stay open later only with local support. Every scenario suggested by the naysayers would quickly fail to be approved in the process.”

Golden State News

• Gov. Jerry Brown announced that bail reform won’t happen this session, but that he’ll work on it with members of the Legislature and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

• Assembly Republicans ousted their leader, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, after he crossed the aisle to vote for cap-and-trade legislation. But the move didn’t do much to answer questions about what direction the party will take. (Sac Bee)

• The California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 66 this week, the 2016 ballot measure to speed up death-penalty executions. But it reined in the measure, and said the five-year requirement for death-penalty appeals should be considered a suggestion, not a rule, otherwise it would be an improper overreach into the court system. (Wall Street Journal)

• The so-called sanctuary state bill is still being hotly debated, but the Legislature this week passed a bill making it harder for law enforcement to hold crime victims or witnesses based on their immigration status. (L.A. Times)

• Republican lawmakers keep repeating versions of the claim that crime in California has gotten worse under Gov. Jerry Brown, and they keep being mostly wrong. (Politifact California)

• If California wants to keep making progress on reducing emissions, it has to get people to drive less. (Vox)

• A bill in the Legislature would have Californians, for the first time, pay a tax on drinking water. The money would go toward cleaning contaminated groundwater. (Mercury News)

• Ending redevelopment didn’t cause the housing crisis, but it did make it worse. (Pacific Standard)

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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