The California Energy Commission isn’t necessarily an agency that the public, or even reporters, follow for its every twist and turn.But it does have a wide-ranging purview and its decisions can affect people’s daily lives, not to mention the industries being regulated.
Before holding its vote, commission members and staff described the first of two initiatives — which enables the commission to begin looking into oil company profit caps and to potentially penalize those who exceed that cap — as “complicated” and a “monumental task.”
Drew Bohan, the commis
sion’s executive director, said agreeing to move forward allows the commission to further evaluate gas prices. It will also permit stakeholders, including environmentalists and oil companies, to weigh in and authorize staff to develop recommendations.
But Sarah Taylor, an associate counsel for the trade group Western States Petroleum Association, unsuccessfully urged the commissioners during the meeting to “do its due diligence” before rushing to a “decision that will likely impact every Californian.”
Given the wider scope of data that their newly formed watchdog group can collect, the commissioners also voted to start a rulemaking process to investigate refinery maintenance. This may lead to the commission imposing time limits to lessen the impact of production losses.
The trade group also objected to the motion in vain.
:“Data has the potential to move markets, place our in-state refineries at a competitive disadvantage and could have a monumental impact on our economy at a time of increasing global volatility,” said Taylor. “Expediting this process does not help any of us… Data would likely provide a distorted view of how the industry operates, potentially worsening a situation the CEC is tasked with avoiding.”
The commission’s actions on Oct. 18 won’t do much to immediately lower prices at the pump (as of Sunday, AAA reports the average price per gallon in California was $5.45, higher than the national average by $1.90), but they’re key to ensuring that Newsom’s law remains effective. As for next steps, the commission is expected to host a series of workshops, public hearings and stakeholder meetings in November.
Republicans in the Legislature say there’s a much quicker fix: Cutting the state gas tax, and they’re still imploring Newsom to call a special session to do just that.