Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) announced that, at the request of six members of the Orange County Legislative Delegation, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) has agreed to conduct an emergency audit of the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA). The audit comes on the heels of two years of allegations of mismanagement, inaction, and lack of transparency on the part of the OCPA, and on the verge of the authority allegedly transferring electrical service for some residents in four Orange County cities.
The legislators – Senators Umberg, Dave Min, and Josh Newman and Assemblymembers Tom Daly, Cottie Petrie-Norris, and Sharon Quirk-Silva – requested the audit of OCPA’s internal business practices at the end of July over heightened concerns of corruption, Brown Act violations, and questionable electricity procurement practices.
OCPA is a new Community Choice Aggregation, established in 2020, to enable local government control over energy procurement. It offers automatic enrollment to both business and residential customers with the ability for customers to opt-out of the program. The launch of OCPA’s business/commercial services occurred on April 1, 2022 with residential services slated to begin on October 1st to the cities of Buena Park, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, and Irvine.
Since 2020, the six legislators have received multiple complaints regarding the governance, operation, and basic competence of the Authority. 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 Sothern California Edison and have been steadily increasing over past 6 months.
In a letter to Assemblymember Rudy Salas, Chairman of the JLAC, the delegation noted that:
“There is deep concern, at this point, about the long-term viability of OCPA. It has failed to disclose actual revenues and expenses as measured against projections. Many public records requests from individuals and city council members have been ignored or denied. Many complaints from local businesses have also been received regarding a lack of notice regarding the process to opt-out of OCPA’s services.”
These concerns appear to be echoed, at least in part, by the California Public Utilities Commission who levied a major fine of $1.96 million against OCPA in April of this year for failing to purchase adequate electricity to avoid service interruption this summer and beyond.
With approval of the audit, Senator Umberg stated the following:
“It’s clear that OCPA has had little oversight. With the federal investigations in Anaheim and Irvine concerning public corruption — we owe it to the taxpayers to explain why their energy costs are going up – and who or what is responsible. I’m confident the JLAC and state auditors will be able to issue some findings and recommendations to provide transparency and accountability in the delivery of electricity in Orange County.”
The delegation’s letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee is attached, along with JLAC’s response. The audit request can also be found at: https://legaudit.assembly.ca.gov/content/audit-requests-2021-2022