Back on Aug. 11, David Zahniser in the LATimes reported that the DWP was trying to hire former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez as a lobbyist in Sacramento because officials were worried AB 32 — the 2006 bill he wrote — would result in a “cap and trade” program forcing utilities to buy expensive pollution credits to offset their coal-burning plants.
Spokesman Joe Ramallo said “cap and trade” could result in a “massive transfer of ratepayer money” away from the DWP, which has the most coal-burning plants in the state, generating more than 45 percent of the city’s power from those pollution-causing facilities.
What was proposed was for the DWP to spend $2.4 million over four years to hire lobbyists with the Conservation Strategy Group– including $120,000 a year for 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.
It’s no coincidence the hit on the DWP would come the same year the mayor promised in his inaugural address in July to “eliminate the use of coal by 2020.”
DWP Commission President Lee Alpert balked at the proposal, partly because of Nunez’s role and partly because the DWP already has former Assemblyman Cindy Montanez as a $180,000 per year lobbyist, plus the largest legislative delegation in the state who presumably would do all the can to help the local utility.
That’s what makes what happened at the DWP Commission meeting last week so interesting.
The Commission unanimously approved a six-month contract with Conservation Strategy Group for $267,500 with several conditions No subcontracting, meaning nothing for Nunez, and it will only be used to influence the water bond and infrastructure proposals that won legislative approval on the day the lobbying contract was approved.
In other words, Conservation Strategy Group was in line to get $300,000 every six months, less the $60,000 for Nunez. Now they’re getting $27,500 more than they would have under the original proposal.
If you think the six-months term of the contract means anything, listen to General Manager David Freeman in this video dodge straight answers to questions while stating the the lobbying firm’s previous contract “expired” but it was still working for DWP without a contract at its own “risk.”
Freeman glibly offers no reason for the contract other than the water legislation and the $11 billion water bond issue — LA County gets $1 billion of it under a last-minute deal. Since those measures already were on their way to the governor, what was exactly is Conservation Strategy Group doing isn’t clear — and the commissioners didn’t ask.
Maybe they all know but it’s a secret they didn’t want to share.
The fact is Freeman admits to serial contracts with this lobbying firm and indicates they will be extended further in six months unless the newly-hired $200,000-a-year director of external affairs, Wally Knox — the former Assemblyman, DWP commissioner and recent Harbor Department consultant — is able to handle the job himself, with Montanez’s help, of course.
Who are they kidding? This is nothing but the same old DWP story: Ratepayers’ money means nothing as long as they can keep getting more of it to hand out to Brian D’Arcy’s union and contractors and consultants of one sort or another without regard to the value of services provided.