The South San Joaquin Irrigation District is getting ready for the ultimate showdown with PG&E.
And they want to make sure that they have all the guns they need in order to come out on top.
After the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission meeting last week where General Manager Jeff Shields encountered a team of consultants and lawyers providing counsel to PG&E to try and block the SSJID from being able to execute its plan to lower retail power rates by 15 percent, the SSJID board decided to bring on high-powered consultants of their own.
The board on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve the hiring of both an expert lawyer and a consulting firm able to process the vast quantity of information that has accumulated during the vetting process preceding official application hearing before LAFCo – which could come as early as May.
The latest barrage of PG&E consultants and volumes of paperwork is in addition to previous studies and reports that both sides have conducted - as well as an independent consultant retained by LAFCo.
In order to adequately prepare, the district’s general counsel Steve Emrick will solicit the services of Newport Beach bond and water expert Doug Brown of the firm Straddling Yocca Carlson and Routh. His clients include the Orange County Water District, Castaic Lake Water Agency, Inland Empire Utility Agency, Santa Clara Water Valley District, Westlands Water District and SSJID.
According to his bio, Brown’s practice centers on bond counsel representation with an emphasis on water project and water agency financing. His practice areas include land use and zoning and local government and public agencies. His services will cost the district $475 an hour.
But that’s not the only help that they’re going to hire as they get closer to the big date.
Emrick is also being tasked with finding a suitable consulting firm that is able to handle the task of getting caught up on the excessive amount of paperwork that has accumulated over the last few years as SSJID has moved forward with their bid to take over PG&E’s distribution system in Manteca, Lathrop Ripon and Escalon.
And dropping their name this early, he said, is probably not a good idea.
“It creates the chance for others to conflict with our experts and what they have done and what they might say, and that’s not something that we want to do,” Emrick said. “It’s an economic impact to the district as well, and we don’t want to waste that.”
The selection process for the consultant will include determining who is capable of navigating what Emrick called a “mountain of material” in a relatively short amount of time. The date for the hearing has not yet been set, but could come as early as May.
A consulting firm could end up costing the district between $100 and $250 an hour depending on services rendered.