Santa Rosa council hears from legal, energy experts before power vote

Santa Rosa has hired two consultants to help City Council members understand the possible pitfalls of joining the Sonoma Clean Power Authority.

Their advice could prove pivotal for a council that is struggling to get its questions about the public power agency answered before a scheduled July 9 vote.

"I can't even begin to guess how the council as a whole will go on this," Mayor Scott Bartley said. "I go up and down, in and out, and any which way you can on this."

The two consultants, one an attorney the other an energy engineer, have been answering questions from the council's three-member subcommittee over the past two weeks. Both will be on hand to answer questions from the full council at this week's study session, which starts at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

"They've helped us identify issues that we think are critical," Bartley said.

The consultant with the most experience with issues surrounding public power authorities is Michael Dean, an attorney and founder of the Sacramento law firm Meyers Nave, which specializes in advising public agencies in California.

Dean, who has been practicing law since 1976, is general counsel to the Northern California Power Agency. The Roseville-based public power agency provides electricity to several agencies in Northern and Central California, including Healdsburg and Ukiah, the Port of Oakland and BART.

In 2008, Dean helped negotiate a 20-year, $500 million power purchase agreement between the agency and Western GeoPower for "100 percent clean, green and renewable, electricity" from its geothermal power plants at The Geysers.

Dean will answer council members' questions about liability and any other legal concerns they may have, City Attorney Caroline Fowler said.

Any reports or opinions Dean puts in writing to the council will remain confidential, Fowler said.

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