As a clear signal that the state legislature still wants to weigh in with a broad-based settlement to California’s electricity crisis, state regulators Tuesday canceled a special meeting to vote on suspending direct access retail competition at the urging of state officials, including the Department of Water Resources (DWR), which is buying all of the power for financially crippled private sector utilities. The California Public Utilities Commission will reconsider the issue in mid-August, the drop-dead deadline for a legislative solution that will prevent a second major utility from falling into bankruptcy.
The eleventh-hour request came late Monday night from DWR, the state finance department and the state treasurer’s office, all of which are key participants in the state’s long-term power buying and a proposed $13 billion revenue bond sale, which now has been scheduled for a “September-October time frame.” A new emergency state law also will shorten the normal appeal process for the CPUC’s eventual decisions that relate to the bond sale from 30 to 10 days.
“This extension will allow the agencies more time to address any unresolved issues and, ultimately, provide interested parties ample opportunity for review and comment,” the CPUC said in a prepared statement.
State officials in both the treasurer’s office and DWR previously had said the CPUC action on retail customer choice was needed in early July to protect provisions of certain long-term power contracts that are tied to the state moving ahead with its overall electricity public bond sale so it can be completed in early September.
Various alternative legislative proposals are being considered in an attempt to salvage direct access as a retail customer choice, as part of settlements to restore the financial viability of Southern California Edison Co. The plan is to eventually have both the utility and state sell bonds to pay off the state and past wholesale power debts of the private sector utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which currently is in Chapter 11 reorganization in federal bankruptcy court in San Francisco.
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