New Chairman Gets Rules Committee OK For ISO Board

With the clock ticking, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s choice to head the board of California’s electricity grid narrowly passed his first hurdle, winning Rules Committee confirmation after Senate Leader Don Perata cast the deciding vote.

But Step 2 may be far more difficult.

The fate of Ken Wiseman, the new chairman of the board of the Independent System Operator, hangs on whether the Legislature’s Democratic leadership and the Administration can reach agreement on the Democrats’ attempts to get more legislative leverage over the powerful agency. Democrats say Wiseman’s nomination will die on the Senate floor next week unless the governor gives the Legislature more control over the ISO’s actions. Both Democrats and Republicans say there has been little, if any movement on negotiations so far.

“The basic problem is the feeling (among Democratic leaders) is that ISO isn’t responsible to ratepayers but is this private corporation that is more responsive to the feds, to FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), than to the California ratepayers. The appointments to the board is our one opportunity at control,” said one legislative staffer.

Those allegations aren’t new, but they are gaining new steam as the state suffers through a hot summer and Schwarzenegger’s appointees take control of ISO’s board. ISO, a remnant of California’s experiment with energy deregulation, is a nonprofit corporation based in Folsom that manages about 80 percent of the state’s power grid.

Only one appointee of former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, Tim Gage, is on the ISO board and his term expires at the end of the year. The former chairman, Davis appointee Michael Kahn, was replaced by Wiseman.

A governor’s appointments must be confirmed within one year of taking office. Wiseman was appointed in October 2004, and theoretically has five more weeks to win confirmation. But the Legislature adjourns for the year on Sept. 9

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