The Chief Counsel’s Office provides legal advice and counsel on a variety of matters, including power plant licensing, energy forecasting, energy efficiency and alternative and renewable energy programs, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and open meeting laws. The office manages Public Record Act requests. The office is organized into four units.

Attorneys support the Energy Commission’s programs to award contracts, grants, and loans in such areas as clean transportation, which includes increasing the number of electric vehicle chargers, hydrogen refueling stations, and electric school buses in California; energy efficiency; research, development, and demonstration projects related to electricity, natural gas, and geothermal energy; renewable energy, including offshore wind; and improved ventilation and plumbing in schools.

Allan L. Ward, II, currently serves as Assistant Chief Counsel for the Transaction Unit within the Chief Counsel’s Office. He started working at the Energy Commission in 2001. Prior to joining the Commission, Allan worked as a plaintiff’s civil litigation attorney at a private law firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, and also as manager of the courtroom clerk unit at the Yolo County Superior Court in Woodland, California. He earned a B.A. in geography from Boston University and his J.D. from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Attorneys advise the CEC on compliance with environmental issues, including the California Environmental Quality Act. They work with staff to enforce CEC regulations and decisions. The attorneys also represent technical staff in power plant licensing cases. In addition, attorneys advise on data management issues, including confidentiality applications and Public Record Act requests.

Kerry Willis currently serves as Assistant Chief Counsel for the Advocacy & Compliance Unit within the Chief Counsel’s Office. She started working at the Energy Commission in 1998. Prior to joining the Commission, Kerry worked for Assemblyman Dominic Cortese, and for 9 years as a manager at Roseville Electric. After graduation from law school, she worked as an employment litigation attorney for a private law firm. She earned her B.S. in political science from Santa Clara University, her M.A. in energy and environmental policy from George Washington University and her J.D. from McGeorge School of Law.

Attorneys serve as hearing officers, making evidentiary rulings, advising committee members and commissioners, and drafting decisions, in administrative adjudications for power plant licenses, amendments to licenses, and compliance and enforcement actions. Attorneys also provide advice and legal support on open meeting laws, conflicts of interest, environmental justice and equity, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and statewide energy policy development.

Kristen Mitsu Driskell is the Assistant Chief Counsel for the Hearings & Advisory Unit within the Chief Counsel’s Office. Kristen previously worked at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation as a senior attorney and at the CEC as an attorney and as a staff supervisor and manager. She earned a B.A. in Literatures in English from the University of California, San Diego, and a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She is a member of the California Lawyers Association Environmental Law Section.

The Regulatory & Advisory Unit handles state, federal, and tribal regulatory matters, including Energy Commission rulemakings, implementation of Commission regulations, and government-to-government interactions. Areas of primary responsibility are as follows: Building and Appliance Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Decarbonization, interaction with the US Department of Energy on federal rulemakings, legislation and legislative analysis, assistance with the Commission’s Tribal program, and coordination of the Chief Counsel’s extern and intern programs.

James Qaqundah currently serves as Assistant Chief Counsel for the Regulatory & Advisory Unit and Assistant Tribal Liaison within the Chief Counsel’s Office. He started working at the Energy Commission in 2020. Prior to joining to the Commission, James represented Tribal governments and other Tribal entities. After graduating from law school, he served as a judicial law clerk for then-Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey of the Colorado Supreme Court. James earned a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in English from the University of California, Davis and his J.D. from the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, DC.