Southern California Edison

227 Cal App. 4th 172; 2014 Cal App LEXIS 541 (May 28, 2014), modified and certified for publication on June 18, 2014.)
The Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District Division 3) affirmed a Commission decision implementing the Electric Program Investment Charge (“EPIC”). Responding to an assertion by Southern California Edison (“SCE”) that the Commission had exceeded its jurisdiction, the Court held that,

“given the PUC’s vast, inherent power to take any action that is cognate and germane to utility regulation, supervision, and rate setting, unless specifically barred by statute, there is no question that the PUC has the inherent authority to create EPIC and to impose fees necessary to carry out that program.

The Court, inter alia, rejected assertions by SCE that the EPIC decision resulted in improper delegation of authority to California Energy Commission (“CEC”) and that the EPIC charge constituted the imposition of a tax in violation of Article XIIIA of the California Constitution (Proposition 13 and progeny).  The decision underscores the extent to which the Commission has proven to be the true winner under the 1998 expansion of the scope of  judicial review of its decisions.  While the Commission has won some and lost some in the Court of Appeal, it has prevailed in all of the significant decisions construing its jurisdiction.  In addition to this decision see PG&E Corporation (Para. 26, infra) and PacBell Wireless (Para. 20, infra).  A 2004 decision concluding that the Commission was without jurisdiction, Santa Clara Valley Transportation (Para. 22, infra), was  largely inconsequential.  The same can be said for Monterey because the Commission’s decision to adopt the order reversed in Monterey (Para. 5) is simply unexplainable.  Notably, the EPIC Court initially elected not to publish its opinion but at the request of many parties decided to do so.  In many respects, it follows the lead of other Court of Appeal Decisions upholding Commission action.  Section 701 is (1) read very expansively and (2) regarded as providing a presumption of the validity of Commission actions with regard to utilities unless an express legislative directive provides to the contrary.  (The rule with respect to Commission jurisdiction over government entities is just the opposite.  (See, County of Inyo, Para. 48 and Monterey, Para. 5, infra.)

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