Irvine Councilors Debate Over Leaving Orange County Power Authority, Decide to Stay

Irvine Councilors Debate Over Leaving Orange County Power Authority, Decide to Stay
The Irvine City Council holds a meeting in Irvine, Calif., on Oct. 26, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Rudy Blalock

The city of Irvine briefly discussed the possibility of exiting the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), again, during their regular May 23 city council meeting, but decided to stay, without taking an official vote.

The discussion came on the heels of Huntington Beach’s vote to exit the agency on May 16.

Agendized by Councilmen Larry Agran and Mike Carroll over concerns about the green energy agency’s future, the motion was met swiftly with opposition.

“We need to stay consistent on who we are, what we’re about, [and] what our commitment is … Irvine has made this commitment, and Irvine will see it through,” said Vice Mayor Tammy Kim, who also sits on the board of the OCPA, during the meeting.

Mayor Farrah Khan called the council “an embarrassment,” for bringing up the issue again.

“We are flip-flopping, and we keep coming up with ways to bring this exact same issue back … every time I’ve said it can work. It will work,” Khan said. “I’m really losing my patience here.”

Power lines in Fullerton, Calif., on Dec. 22, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Power lines in Fullerton, Calif., on Dec. 22, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The embattled agency has faced three audits, recently fired its CEO, and lost two of its members with the County of Orange opting out first last December.

Agran, who has been critical of the agency since its 2020 formation, called the OCPA a “failing enterprise,” citing concerns over the agency’s promise to deliver cheaper and cleaner energy at lower rates than its competitor Southern California Edison (SCE) and “delivered with full transparency,” all which were lies, he said.

“All of those promises, all of them have been broken, and they were broken very early on,” he said.

On May 8, the agency’s board selected an interim CEO to replace the recently fired Brian Probolsky, whose last day is May 31.

Since its inception, the OCPA has received criticism over what some say is a lack of transparency and inexperienced management.

Several audits of the agency have been issued, including by an Orange County Grand Jury last June, the Orange County Auditor—at the request of Orange County Supervisors—in December, and the California State Auditor in February.

The State Auditor’s findings revealed that Probolsky improperly executed agreements worth $1.8 million with marketing and financial services, while skirting required board procedures in the process.

Joe Mosca, the OCPA’s director of communications, will temporarily replace Probolsky beginning June 1, until a new permanent CEO is hired.

Councilwoman Kathleen Treseder, who also sits on the board of the OCPA and advocated for Probolsky’s firing, said she is hopeful of the agency’s future.

“OCPA did have a rough start for sure. My colleague Vice Mayor Kim and I have been serving on the board for the last four and a half months and we’ve already seen, I think, great progress,” she said.

She said the agency is in the process of replacing its general counsel and has completed around 90 percent of the reforms suggested in the audits, in addition to replacing the CEO.

During the meeting, Councilman Carroll offered a motion to request the agency’s other members, Fullerton and Buena Park, to “commit and shoulder [some] financial responsibility,” for the agency.

Irvine provided a $7.5 million loan to help launch the agency, which wasn’t matched by the other founding cities. The motion failed 3–2, with Khan, Kim, and Treseder voting no.

The Civic Center in Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The Civic Center in Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

During the meeting, Carroll said he fears the issue of staying or leaving will resurface, as other cities weigh their choices.

“I think we might be back here in a few weeks and I think we might have [fewer] options,” he said.

Fullerton also discussed withdrawing from the power agency on May 16, directing city staff to seek information on the costs of withdrawal. Buena Park has also included a discussion in their June 6 council meeting to withdraw from the agency.

And while it hasn’t been posted publicly yet, Treseder said the OCPA will schedule a discussion to dissolve the agency during an upcoming June board meeting, at the request of board member Casey McKeon and board alternative Tony Strickland, who also represent the Huntington Beach City Council, the most recent member to abandon the agency.

According to city staff, if the agency were to dissolve, OCPA would need to sell off energy contracts they acquired on behalf of its city members. If the energy sells for more than its purchase price there’s a chance extra funds could pay off Irvine’s loan to the agency, but there’s no guarantee, according to the city attorney.

Irvine city council’s Kim told The Epoch Times it’s unlikely the discussion to dissolve the agency will lead anywhere, most likely not receiving enough support.

“They asked for it to be agendized, but they’re not going to have the votes in order to do it,” she said.

Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.
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