WRCOG Requests Attorney General Investigation Into California Energy Commission Violations, Requests Immediate Freeze on Allocation of State Energy Program Funds

Oct 29, 2010, 19:10 ET from Western Riverside Council of Governments

RIVERSIDE, Calif., Oct. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- The Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG) is requesting the Attorney General begin an investigation of the California Energy Commission (CEC) regarding violations in relation to its handling of WRCOG's grant application for commercial and residential energy efficiency and solar projects. In addition, WRCOG is requesting an immediate freeze on any allocation of Municipal Financing Program funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) until a full judicial review is complete to determine if the CEC's latest action was legal and appropriate.

In a letter dated October 28, 2010, WRCOG urged the Attorney General to investigate violations of the CEC and the Department of General Services (DGS) as they relate to the issuance of certain contracts pertaining to the California Energy Commission v. Superior Court of the State of California, County of Riverside.

"This process has been poorly managed by the CEC from the start and we have grave concerns that taxpayers and the hard working families and businesses of Riverside County could potentially not receive much needed funding for critical energy efficiency programs," said Kelly Bennett, Chair of WRCOG. "Like other parts of the state, we very much need this funding to stimulate our local economy and get our people back to work."

This request results from the CEC's disregard of WRCOG's multiple attempts to engage in discussions to resolve this situation. As a last resort, WRCOG pursued legal action to ensure a fair and transparent process.

"We believe – and the Court agrees - that our region has never been granted a fair and equitable review of our application," said Rick Bishop, Executive Director of WRCOG. "It is extremely frustrating that we have to spend thousands of dollars just to get the CEC and Department of General Services to follow their own procedures."

In February 2010, WRCOG received a zero score from the CEC on a grant request to receive funds to implement energy efficient improvements to properties in Western Riverside County. When WRCOG questioned this decision, the CEC elected to disregard its own dispute resolution process. The CEC then went so far as to disregard a court order directing the state agencies abide by their own processes and conduct a review hearing.

"We must work together and resolve this problem outside the courtroom. The CEC has repeatedly refused to work collaboratively, and denied our legal right to appeal forcing unwanted and costly litigation," said Chairwoman Bennett. "The CEC's continual rejection of our requests to meet and utter disregard of our settlement offer is disappointing at best. It is unbelievable that the CEC has engaged taxpayer dollars to focus on a political and media campaign of insults, rather than expending that energy on finding solutions."

The CEC's unethical actions include:

  • Contrary to CEC assertions, Federal ARRA funds are not lost to California if unallocated by October 21:  Contrary to CEC assertions, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has informed CEC Chairman Karen Douglas that ARRA funds would not be deobligated by October 21. The CEC then legally failed to forward this information to the court of appeals which had lifted WRCOG's legal hold on the funds allocation due to a federal deadline that the CEC now admits does not exist.
  • Incomplete and/or inaccurate information provided to the Court of Appeals: CEC Chief Legal Counsel Michael J. Levy submitted information to the Court of Appeals indicating WRCOG's Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program had been suspended. WRCOG's Executive Committee has never taken an action to suspend its Program.
  • Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act violations: WRCOG via legal counsel Best, Best & Krieger submitted a letter dated October 26 to the CEC informing them that a hastily-scheduled meeting in which contracts were awarded was not properly agendized and conducted. The CEC responded, claiming that it had not violated noticing requirements, but that It would reagendize the contracts for another meeting for purposes of "ratification."
  • Settlement discussions with no action: WRCOG Executive Director Rick Bishop and Chairwoman Kelly Bennett requested a face to face meeting with the CEC. WRCOG then was granted a conference call with the Governor's Office and the CEC staff on October 18 and was informed that the CEC would consider an offer proposed by WRCOG and provide a response by the end of that day. The CEC has never provided a response to WRCOG.

"It's certainly disappointing to watch state agencies defy their own processes and court orders.  But we will continue to protect our rights in court and will begin involving our federal, state and local elected officials to bring a resolution to this matter," said Robin Hastings, WRCOG's Vice Chair.

For more information about the Western Riverside Council of Governments and the various programs administered by the Agency, please visit www.wrcog.cog.ca.us.

SOURCE Western Riverside Council of Governments