Rancho Mirage Bails on CVAG Community Aggregation Plan

The animosity between Rancho Mirage and the Coachella Valley Association of Governments surrounding CV Link – a proposed 50-mile biking and hiking pathway in Southern California that initially would connect eight of the nine cities in the Coachella Valley and three Indian reservations – has spilled over to complicate an unrelated regional community choice aggregation plan, according to a February 20 report by The Desert Sun.

CVAG has been working to form a community choice aggregator that would enable its member cities –Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Spring, Indian Wells, Indio, La Quinta, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and Rancho Mirage – to dump Southern California Edison and buy electricity directly from competitive power providers. Community choice aggregators, or CCAs, have helped other parts of California reduce their electricity bills while increasing their reliance on climate-friendly solar and wind energy.

However, Rancho Mirage is throwing a wrench in the works, The Desert Sun said this week. Officials of the resort city of 18,000 do want to form a CCA — but they have decided to do it on their own. In a 4-0 vote, Rancho’s City Council chose on February 16 to tell CVAG that the city will not participate in the regional plan, which could also involve the Western Riverside Council of Governments and the San Bernardino Associated Governments. City officials said they want more local control than a regional CCA could offer them.

After reviewing a feasibility study commissioned by CVAG and the other regional agencies, they decided they could run a leaner, more cost-effective CCA on their own, with a greater ability to tailor their decisions to Rancho Mirage’s needs, the local news outlet reported..

The council’s frustration over CV Link also motivated its decision, the newspaper said. Council member Dana Hobart, a critic of the proposed pathway, attacked CVAG during the meeting, criticizing CV Link and other projects he believes exceed the regional agency’s authority. He said CVAG is “becoming an empire.”

“I don’t think CVAG has earned our trust to justify our city being part of this (community choice) project,” Hobart said. “I personally just think that CVAG is out of control.”

Erica Felci, CVAG’s governmental projects manager, pushed back against those criticisms, The Desert Sun reported. “CVAG has on many occasions expressed its desire to have a productive and collaborative relationship with the City of Rancho Mirage. It would be unfortunate to see the council’s opposition to an unrelated transportation project limit out abilities to work together on other important endeavors,” Felci wrote in a letter, from which she read excerpts during the meeting.

The regional study, conducted by Washington state-based EES Consulting, found that if the three government associations were to form a single CCA, they could offer their customers a 50 percent clean energy mix while cutting electricity costs 3.7 percent below Edison’s rates.

Losing Rancho Mirage probably wouldn’t change those numbers much. But going it alone could be a risky move for Rancho Mirage, community choice advocates said. In general, larger CCAs can save more money for their customers because of their increased purchasing power.

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