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CEC’s Public Advisor’s Office Expanding Its Role

Updated: Aug 17, 2022

By Media Office Staff

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has expanded the scope of the Office of the Public Advisor to incorporate initiatives focused on indigenous relations, environmental justice, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and access.

The office advises the public, tribes, stakeholders, and the CEC to ensure the full and effective participation by all interested groups and the public at large in the planning, procedures, proceedings, business meetings, workshops, and other activities of the CEC.

Under the expansion, which was announced at the November 15 business meeting, the office, which is now the Office of the Public Advisor, Energy Equity, and Tribal Affairs, includes a deputy public advisor who is also the tribal liaison and will support the CEC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access Initiative led by Public Advisor Noemí Otilia Osuna Gallardo and Equal Employment Opportunity Officer Carousel Gore.

The office’s name change amplifies the CEC’s commitment to advancing a clean energy future for all and makes the importance of energy equity and tribal relationships more apparent to the public, Gallardo said.

“It makes a lot of sense for the Public Advisor’s Office to officially take on a title that reflects the year of hard work and the many contributions that the office has been making in order to help ensure that the Energy Commission’s work around equity, diversity, and inclusion (has impact),” said Commissioner Karen Douglas, who is the lead commissioner on tribal affairs.

The CEC’s Tribal Program, which was housed under the Siting, Transmission, and Environmental Protection Division, was shifted in order to help expand outreach and engagement with tribes about potential opportunities and funding beyond cultural resources. The program assists California Native American tribes with planning and development efforts for energy policy and technologies. Efforts include climate change assessments, energy research, project funding, and regulation drafting.

In May 2021, the CEC hosted a Tribal Energy Resilience Conference where state agencies and federal and tribal nations discussed pathways for increased clean energy funding, renewable energy incentives, and greater energy and climate change resiliency on tribal lands and resources. Part of the conference outcomes included a report summarizing the discussions and recommendations from the event.

Deputy Public Advisor Katrina Leni-Konig is the CEC’s tribal liaison and serves as point of contact between the CEC and tribes. She also will work to implement the CEC’s Tribal Consultation Policy and strengthen the agency’s tribal program. Tom Gates, who previously served as the tribal liaison, will serve as a tribal advisor and will share his knowledge and history with the office.

Chair David Hochschild and Commissioner Andrew J. McAllister were interested in creating more internship opportunities for indigenous youth at the CEC and ways to acknowledge tribal land at future meetings. At the business meeting, commissioners approved updates to the tribal consultation policy, delegating more resources and staff to help tribal efforts and further the CEC’s diversity initiatives. The policy, which was last revised in 2017, has been the framework for the CEC’s work in providing energy equity and consultation to California tribes.

There was a consensus at the business meeting that efforts should be made to ensure that indigenous voices are heard and incorporated into infrastructure policies, acknowledging the role of the government to listen to and honor the history of California tribes.

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