From Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s second inaugural speech, July 2, 2009:
“Moving forward we’re aiming to get 40% of our power from
renewable sources by 2020 and go 60% carbon-free by the end of the next
“Today, I am directing the CEO of the Department of Water
and Power to take every action necessary to reach these goals and
eliminate the use of coal by 2020. Meanwhile, we’re going to move
beyond the clean air action plan – the most aggressive effort to cut
emissions at any port worldwide. We are going to electrify goods
movement at our harbor.“
That’s the order the mayor gave DWP head David Nahai just six weeks ago and is the principal reason the DWP is in the process of getting approval for unlimited rate increases that will double or triple electricity bills in the next decade.
So why in the world is the DWP proposing to spend $2.4 million to hire lobbyists with the Conservation Strategy Group– including $120,000 a year for former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez through his firm Mercury Public Affairs — to gut enforcement of Assembly Bill 32, the 2006 law that requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, the same year DWP will have eliminated its coal dependency?
The DWP already has its own team of expensive lobbyists on the payroll — including former Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez at $180,000 a year — even though it’s not subject to most state regulations like private utilities.
David Zahniser in the Times reports the DWP’s explanation is that they are worried AB
32 will result in a “cap and trade” program that requires utilities
that rely on coal power, to purchase expensive
Nahai wouldn’t talk to Zahniser abou it but spokesman Joe Ramallo said “cap and trade” could result in a “massive transfer of
ratepayer money” away from the utility/
Nunez also was coy about talking but Glenn Gritzner, managing
director of Mercury’s L.A. office, declared: “It could be implemented in a way that costs the
ratepayers a heck of a lot of money.”
Who are us poor folks who pay the bills to believe?
The mayor says no coal by 2020. His team at the DWP says penalizing utilities that still rely on coal in 2020 will cost a fortune. Does that mean they aren’t really going to achieve his goal and already know it?
Maybe the mayor’s plan is phony and DWP officials are just throwing more ratepayer money at insiders like Nunez.
Whatever the truth is — and you never know either with the DWP or the mayor — the only certainty is rates will continue to soar and the DWP will remain a cash cow for City Hall.
When the MTA, the LAUSD and the LAPD all lost the confidence of the public because of scandals of one sort or another, the answer was to put in place an inspector general with independence to serve as the public’s watchdog.
Needless to say, our elected elected have done their best to water down the independence of these watchdogs over time but they still provide at least some protection for the public interest.
This DWP lobbying contract is just one of a hundred reasons why we need a Ratepayer Advocate — the organizational equivalent of an inspector general — to keep an independent and watchful eye on where the money goes and how our utility operates.
The commission that oversees the DWP has stalled this contract for the moment but it has neither the staff nor the independence to be a public watchdog.
That’s a lot of what’s wrong with City Hall. The commission system is a failure, corrupted by our elected officials to be little more than a rubber stamp system of approving whatever they want, for whatever reasons they want.
This has never been clearer than in the last year. Ever since Nick Patsaouras and Jane Usher resigned key commission positions last year in disgust with what was going on, the mayor with agreement of the City Council has stacked the “juice” commissions like DWP, harbor, airports, planning with people tied to the very special interests that benefit from city policies.
City Hall needs major reforms to bring the public in as a partner and to provide oversight and accountability. A DWP ratepayer advocate is one of those reforms and should be implemented quickly.