After months of repeated requests for a City Council meeting to publicly discuss the troubled operations and finances at the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), Irvine City Councilmember Larry Agran has successfully been able to agendize the issue at a special Council meeting, scheduled for next Tuesday (June 14th) at 3pm.
Below is a timeline of Agran’s continuing effort to force OCPA to be transparent and accountable in its use of millions of dollars of Irvine taxpayers’ money. The timeline reveals Agran’s extraordinary perseverance in the face of united opposition from the other Irvine City Council members and Mayor Farrah Khan.
Nov. 28, 2020: The previous Irvine City Council, at the urging of then-Councilmember and now-Mayor Khan, forms OCPA. Khan and other supporters promise OCPA will deliver cleaner electricity at lower costs than Southern California Edison (SCE). (The City has loaned OCPA $7.7 million so far to cover start-up costs and initial operations.)
Dec. 8, 2020: Newly elected Councilmember Larry Agran is sworn in. Subsequently, one of his first acts is to cast the only “No” vote on the Council as it approves guaranteeing a $35 million credit facility for OCPA. Agran expresses strong doubts about the OCPA’s financial projections.
Dec. 16, 2020: The OCPA board meets for the first time and selects Irvine Councilmember Mike Carroll as chairman. Khan becomes Irvine’s additional representative on the board. Huntington Beach, Fullerton, Buena Park and Lake Forest join OCPA.
Jan. 12, 2021: The OCPA board names Brian Probolsky as CEO of the Power Authority. Best known as a local Republican political operative and County staffer, Probolsky has no college degree and no experience in the energy sector. His salary is set at $239,000 annually.
Feb. 18, 2021: Lake Forest withdraws from OCPA.
Sept. 30, 2021: Councilmember Agran requests that the City Council schedule a public briefing by OCPA on its progress. He points out that neither he nor the taxpayers of Irvine, who are funding OCPA, have received such a briefing, ever. The request dies for lack of a second from Khan or Carroll, or Irvine City Councilmembers Tammy Kim or Anthony Kuo.
Oct. 19, 2021: The San Clemente City Council votes against joining OCPA in favor of another provider. “I have no interest in going north and dealing with that Irvine crap,” said San Clemente Councilmember Gene James.
Nov. 15, 2021: Councilmember Agran proposes a resolution calling on OCPA to provide Irvine with 100 percent renewable energy (generated mostly by solar and wind). The request dies for lack of a second from Khan, Carroll, Kim or Kuo.
Dec. 3, 2021: The OCPA executive with by far the most energy experience, Chief Operations Officer Antonia Castro-Graham, abruptly resigns. No explanation is given by OCPA or Castro-Graham.
Jan. 11, 2022: OCPA releases its initial rates for electricity that are equal to or higher than SCE rates, giving the lie to previous promises by Khan and Carroll that the rates would be lower than SCE’s.
January-February, 2022: OCPA member cities vote to automatically enroll their ratepayers in either the highest or second-highest rate tier, both of which are more costly than SCE.
Feb. 23, 2022: Probolsky strikes a deal with promoters of the highly controversial proposed Poseidon desalination plant in Huntington Beach, to provide it with 100 percent renewable energy once it is built. The Poseidon group then uses this as a selling point for the plant as they attempt to get regulatory approval. Poseidon is unanimously rejected by the state Coastal Commission nonetheless. “How much did OCPA spend on that PR stunt?” quips Agran.
March 1, 2022: Councilmember Agran requests that the City audit OCPA, as it is authorized to do under the Joint Powers Agreement with the agency. The request dies for lack of a second from Khan, Carroll, Kim or Kuo.
March 24, 2022: Councilmember Agran submits a formal request under the state Public Records Act for documents and information regarding OCPA’s finances and energy contracts.
April 1, 2022: OCPA begins enrolling businesses in the four member cities. There is a raft of complaints from business owners that they were not notified and do not know their options. As the month goes on and there is more public discussion and information, more and more businesses opt-down to less costly tiers or opt-out of the OCPA electricity program altogether.
April 4, 2022: OCPA says it will not fulfill Agran’s public records request within the statutory 10 days, but will take an extension to April 18.
April 5, 2022: Carroll declares OCPA is “right where we want to be” in lining up electricity contracts for the summer months and beyond.
April 10, 2022: OCPA is fined nearly $2 million by the California Public Utilities Commission for not having purchased enough electricity for the summer months.
April 18, 2022: OCPA provides a small portion of the public records requested by Councilmember Agran and says it will provide the bulk by May 18.
May 18, 2022: OCPA says it will provide public records requested by Agran by June 24, which would be three months after the original request.
May 31, 2022: With Huntington Beach Councilmember Dan Kalmick in the lead role, four OCPA board members submit a request for a special closed session to discuss Probolsky’s performance and possible dismissal. The same day, Probolsky files a formal complaint alleging misdeeds by Kalmick and other board members while claiming whistleblower protection from termination.
June 1, 2022: Councilmember Agran requests a special meeting of the City Council to authorize a City audit of OCPA and to assess the City’s exposure to liability. Mayor Khan signs on to Agran’s request. A special meeting is scheduled for June 14 at 3pm.
Oct. 1, 2022: Irvine residential ratepayers will be switched into OCPA’s most expensive rate tier, unless they pro-actively select a lower tier or opt to stay with their current provider of electricity, Southern California Edison.