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IID reacts cautiously to Davis' remarks

January 10, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors is taking a cautious stance regarding comments made by Gov. Gray Davis about the future of power service in the state.

In his "State of the State" speech Monday, Davis said, "California's deregulation scheme is a colossal and dangerous failure. It has not lowered consumer prices. And it has not increased supplies.

"In fact, it has resulted in skyrocketing prices, price-gouging and an unreliable supply of electricity."

Davis outlined several "immediate steps" he said must be taken to prevent the state's energy crisis from growing worse.

One key concern expressed by the IID directors stems from statements by Davis about municipal utilities. IID is a municipal utility.

Davis stated, "The time has come to take control of our energy destiny. And that will require either a joint powers authority among the state and our 30 municipal utilities to develop the additional power we need or a California public power authority that can buy new plants."

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IID officials have said the district offers among the lowest power rates in the state and they do not want to see it lose the ability to offer such rates.

When asked for reaction to Davis' statements, IID board President Andy Horne said, "It is hard to say what he has in mind in terms of municipal utilities."

Still, Horne said he thinks based on Davis' statements municipal districts "are now being fingered" to help solve the state energy crisis brought about by the deregulation of the power industry.

Horne said he could not support any plan in which IID would be forced to hand over control of its power transmission and generation lines to a centralized authority.

"I would hope we would be able to control our destiny," Horne said.

As a municipal utility, IID has until 2002 to decide if it wants to take part in the deregulation, which would open the market IID serves to other energy providers. IID officials said with the current problems it would be a mistake for the district to join deregulation.

The concern is IID may lose the right to decide if it wants to take part in deregulation.

Director Lloyd Allen said he is hopeful IID will be exempt from any joint powers authority Davis would consider forming to stabilize the power industry.

"I just kind of hope they leave us alone," Allen said, adding he thinks the fact the Imperial Valley is isolated could be in the district's favor.

Director Stella Mendoza added of a joint powers authority, "They would take away our decision-making authority and I could not support that. We would be lumped as a group and we would lose our independence."

Brad Luckey, IID's executive officer, said the district has to take a "wait-and-see" stand and attend all meetings on a state level related to the future of power.

"Losing control of our transmission and generation lines would be detrimental to our customers based on the fact of our isolation and we know we know our system better than anyone," Luckey said.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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