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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Evolution of the Regulatory State: Energy Policy and Regulatory Reform in California

  • Author(s): Guliasi, Les
  • Advisor(s): Domhoff, G. William
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

This dissertation examines the evolution of energy policy and regulatory reform in California from an institutional perspective. The analysis centers on the ideological and interest group political dynamics responsible for the market and regulatory reform initiatives and the development of energy policy in California from the 1970s to the present. The regulatory and legislative arenas are chosen as the institutional location in which ideological and interest group politics converge to shape the origins, development, and implementation of public policy.

The study begins by describing the anatomy of the organizational structure of the bureaucratic institutions that play the major role in developing and implementing energy policy nationally and within California. It presents the theory of public utility regulation and examines the historical relationship between the modern state and private industry through the lens of the "regulatory compact." It traces the history of key legislative measures that mark the evolution of energy policy and regulatory reform and explains the role that crisis played in creating the social and political conditions that defined and, over time, redefined institutional relationships between the modern state and private industry. The analysis presented supports the claim that crisis in the energy sector led to regulatory and policy initiatives that disrupted long-established institutional relationships between the state regulator and the regulated energy industry. Political conflict among interests embedded in the structure of the energy industry transformed the traditional role of the regulator from an impartial judge and arbiter of interest group conflict to an active interventionist in the creation and deployment of public policy. The study closes with some reflections on California's energy future, drawing lessons learned from California's experience in initiating market and regulatory reforms in the energy sector.

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