IID Continues Battle with Huge Electric-Power Entity




SAN DIEGO — The Imperial Irrigation District is taking another stab at its David-and-Goliath lawsuit against the major operator of California’s electric power lines, according to a filing with the United States District Court, Southern District of California.

The district’s initial suit against the California Independent System Operator, or CAISO, was filed on July 16, but partially dismissed on Nov. 24 by District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia. CAISO attorneys sought dismissal in a motion filed on Sept. 9.

Battaglia upheld a portion of IID’s suit and dismissed other portions “without prejudice,” giving the IID legal team an opening to amend its complaint. It did just that without fanfare on Jan. 6. While previous major activity in the case had been conjoined with detailed press releases, IID issued no press release about the amended complaint and only informed the Desert Review of it by attaching it to a Jan. 27 e-mail.

The e-mail was sent to a Desert Review reporter by Ross G. Simmons, district general counsel, and referring to an attachment to the e-mail message Simmons only stated: “Responding to your request for information related to the amended complaint in the CAISO litigation, the first amended complaint — with proof of filing — is attached.”

The Desert Review interviewed IID General Manager Kevin Kelley on Jan. 4 concerning changes in the district Energy Department. Asked at that time about the suit, Kelley stated he expected the district’s attorneys to file an amended complaint soon. The district’s next correspondence on the matter was the Jan. 27 e-mail.

A Desert Review reporter reviewed the case’s electronic file at the District Court in San Diego on Jan. 28 and the amended complaint was listed among the suit’s filings. No hearing date on the matter was listed in the file.

In the initial suit, IID alleged CAISO was violating federal anti-trust law by squashing IID’s ability to export renewable energy from Imperial County to other areas of California and the west.

The ability to move that electric power has become increasingly important as the generation of renewable energy — geothermal, solar and wind — has increased greatly in Imperial County over the last decade. Many more generation projects are in various stages of planning and development. Meanwhile, demand for that energy billows as the state requires public utilities to get more of the electricity they sell from renewable sources — 33 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2030.

The original IID suit alleges that in a “remarkable power grab” CAISO shut the door on the district’s ability to get that electric power to customers out of its area.

According to its website, 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 and while IID is not, and operates its own power lines, the two entities still must coordinate.

The amended IID complaint has a number of changes from the original, including adding allegations of “breach of tariff” and “violation of the California Business and Professions code.” The original suit involved allegations CAISO violated the federal Sherman Anti-Trust Act and committed breach of implied contract. It sought restitution and relief. The amended complaint includes those items with some changes.

According to an IID press release issued after Battaglia ruled on CAISO’s dismissal request in November, IID was “pleased to learn that the Court rejected CAISO’s principal argument that the antitrust claims belong before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and not the U.S. District Court,” but added the district was “disappointed that Judge Battaglia found the current pleading does not yet adequately spell out why CAISO’s conduct as a monopolist was ‘exclusionary’ within the meaning of federal antitrust law.”

Press releases and links to some of the court filings are available at http://www.iid.com/about-iid/news-resources/news-releases.