The Chief Counsel’s Office provides legal advice on a variety of matters, including power plant licensing, energy forecasting, energy efficiency, clean transportation, and renewable energy programs, the California Environmental Quality Act, the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, and the Political Reform Act. The Chief Counsel's Office manages Public Record Act requests. It is organized into four units.
Attorneys represent Commission staff that serve as an independent party in power plant license certification proceedings, compliance and enforcement matters, and other quasi-adjudicatory proceedings before the Commission. They advise the Commission on compliance with environmental laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act . Attorneys also provide legal advice to the Commission and its staff on Public Records Act, confidentiality requests, and other data collection matters as well as perform legislative analysis and varying degrees of civil litigation and administrative litigation before other state and federal agencies.
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.
Attorneys assist the Commission on rulemakings and provide legal support to implement Commission regulations and programs in the following areas: building and appliance efficiency, renewable energy, and decarbonization. Attorneys also provide legal advice and support on legislative analysis, participation in US Department of Energy rulemakings, implementation of the Commission’s Tribal program, and coordination of the Chief Counsel’s law clerk 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.
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 Transactions 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.