Communities for a Better Environment v. Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission

Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and Center for Biological Diversity (Center) filed suit on May 29, 2013 to challenge the constitutionality of a provision of California law that requires appeal directly to the California Supreme Court of any decision on a thermal power plant license by the California Energy Commission.  The Supreme Court has discretion whether to take such appeals.  The lawsuit, filed May 29, 2013 in Alameda Superior Court, alleges that California Public Resources Code section 25531(a) violates article VI, section 10 of the California Constitution, by restricting the judicial forums available to citizens to challenge Energy Commission decisions.  The complaint also alleges that section 25531(b) restricts a court’s ability to review the facts of such challenges, in violation of the separation of powers. 

Section 25531 is part of the Warren-Alquist Act, which governs the Energy Commission and grants the Commission exclusive jurisdiction over the permitting of all thermal power plants in California that are 50 MW or larger.  For other electrical generating facilities, such as wind and solar farms and thermal power plants of less than 50 MW, legal challenges to agency decisions are filed in state superior court and go through the normal appeals process.

Plaintiffs have named the State Controller’s Office, as well as the Energy Commission, as defendants.  The complaint requests declaratory relief, that Section 25531(a) violates article VI, section 10 and Section 25531(b) violates the separation of powers doctrine.  Plaintiffs also seek injunctive relief, to enjoin the state from expenditure of funds to implement these provisions of the Warren-Alquist Act.Continue Reading New Lawsuit Challenges the California Supreme Court’s Original Jurisdiction over Power Plant Siting Cases