State to Audit Orange County Power Authority After Request by Local Officials

State to Audit Orange County Power Authority After Request by Local Officials
Power lines in Fullerton, Calif., on Dec. 22, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Jill McLaughlin
9/18/2022
Updated:
9/19/2022
0:00

California’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee has agreed to audit the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), a recently formed energy provider embroiled in complaints about its operation.

State Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) announced Sept. 15 the upcoming audit as the agency deals with allegations of mismanagement, inaction, and a lack of transparency.

“It’s clear that OCPA has had little oversight,” Umberg said in a statement. “We owe it to the taxpayers to explain why their energy costs are going up–and who or what is responsible.”

Umberg was joined by State Sens. Dave Min (D-Irvine) and Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) and Assemblymembers Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) in requesting the audit of the agency’s internal business practices.

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

The legislators have received multiple complaints since OCPA started operating, according to Umberg.

“Since 2020, the six legislators have received multiple complaints regarding the governance, operation, and basic competence of the Authority,” Umberg said. “Additionally, part of the promise of OCPA was that it would provide cheaper energy, however, business consumers have reported that their rates have actually been more expensive than under Southern California Edison and have been steadily increasing over the past 6 months.”

These concerns were echoed by the California Public Utilities Commission, which levied a $1.96 million fine against OCPA in April for failing to purchase adequate electricity to avoid service interruption this summer and beyond, Umberg said.

The nonprofit power authority was set up by the county in late 2020 as a local sustainable energy alternative to Southern California Edison and to give businesses and residential customers a choice about their power sources. It launched its commercial services in April.

Now, it provides energy to more than 38,000 businesses in Buena Park, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, and Irvine. It is set to begin residential service Oct. 1.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors meet in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 25, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The Orange County Board of Supervisors meet in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 25, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
In June, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to launch an investigation into any legal or financial risk associated with the OCPA.

An Orange County grand jury also investigated the OCPA this year, submitting a report in June, detailing what it said were the agency’s problems with transparency and what it called a “rocky start.” The report said problems began right after the agency’s creation with a lack of transparency and rising costs.

The grand jury said a shortage of new renewable energy projects has caused prices to rise nearly 10 percent since the beginning of the year and nearly 29 percent since last year.

OCPA’s CEO Brian Probolsky filed a whistleblower complaint in May against some of the authority’s board members, alleging they sought to fire him. An investigation into that complaint will be conducted by Los Angeles-based Jeffrey Wortman, a partner at the international law firm of Seyfarth Shaw.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.