SAN DIEGO — As Imperial Valley’s renewable energy industry wrapped up its ninth annual summit on March 11, a legal battle that may affect the ability to export that electricity to other areas lingered in U.S. District Court.
Power and water utility Imperial Irrigation District in July filed suit against California’s largest operator of electric power lines, alleging its actions impede IID’s efforts to link to power lines outside the IID service area.
The defendant, the California Independent System Operator, won a victory in November when federal Judge Anthony Battaglia dismissed a portion of IID’s suit. But the judge gave the utility the chance to amend its suit and it did so in a Jan. 6 filing.
CAISO hit back on Feb. 5, again asking Battaglia to dismiss the IID suit. It is represented by Hogan and Lovells U.S., LLP, of Washington, D.C., and Menlo Park.
IID’s counter punch came on March 4 when the district’s legal team filed its response to CAISO’s second dismissal action. IID is represented by the law firm of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard and Smith, LLP, of Denver and San Diego, as well as in-house counsel.
A hearing on the actions is scheduled for April 14 before Battaglia, a district court clerk said.
CAISO is a nonprofit corporation that manages the transmission of 80 percent of the electric power in California. Most power utilities in the state are members, but IID is not. IID’s suit alleges that by illegally impeding IID from connecting its power lines to other areas CAISO violated the federal Sherman Anti-Trust Act and committed breach of implied contract.
The heart of the dispute rests in the burgeoning generation of “renewable” electric power within IID’s service area in Imperial County, including geothermal, solar and wind power. Such electricity is becoming an increasingly coveted commodity with California requiring public utilities to get a third of the electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2020 and half by 2030.