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TONY HAYS, San Clemente

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a California state initiative, enacted through SB 350 in 2015, that enables local cities to form a separate agency that purchases electrical energy directly from power suppliers, rather than investor-owned utilities, such as San Diego Gas & Electric.

Customers have a choice of buying energy from renewable sources, or a combination of renewable and non-renewable sources. The Clean Energy Alliance (CEA) is a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA), currently comprising seven cities in San Diego County that takes advantage of CCE, offering three purchase options from 100% to 50% renewable energy sources. Prices are slightly less than those of SDG&E, with 31% renewable.

 On July 19, the San Clemente City Council discussed a staff recommendation to introduce an ordinance to implement CCE, starting with engaging with CEA regarding next steps to join the JPA. Although the overwhelming majority of public comments endorsed the staff recommendation, most of the City Council were less than enthusiastic.

In particular, Councilmember Kathy Ward objected to the terms of the JPA because of the JPA’s power to “… acquire property for the public purposes of the Authority by eminent domain …”

Her objection was founded on her experience as a board member of the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), which had JPAs with similar features, and which had tried to build an elevated toll road in the vicinity of Target, Lowe’s and San Clemente High School, using the powers of eminent domain in spite of the objections of San Clemente.

Other councilmembers raised similar objections to those of Ward, and the staff recommendation was tabled.

 But not all JPAs are the same. The CEA JPA also states, in the same paragraph as the quotation above, that “…the Authority shall not exercise the power of eminent domain within the jurisdiction of a Party without its affirmative vote …”

If the JPA wanted to exercise powers of eminent domain for property in San Clemente, it would need the approval of the San Clemente JPA board member. So, Councilmember Ward’s concerns were unjustified.

 The new City Council should reconsider joining the Clean Energy Alliance.

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