Let's face it - being 'green' is the new cool. But sometimes an ulterior, industry-driven motive lurks behind the 'green halo' that we trust in so-called environmental organizations. This blog is dedicated to keeping individuals and organizations who claim to be for clean, renewable energy accountable.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Did PG&E Buy the CA League of Conservation Voter’s Endorsement Against Renewable Energy?

The popularly accepted definition of “greenwashing” is inextricably linked to corporate bad behavior. But what about the “green” groups that give these corporations cover?

During last year’s tumultuous campaign season, voters had the opportunity to place the strictest and most aggressive renewable energy mandate into law with Proposition 7. But an aggressive campaign defined by deceit and mired with lies was successful in defeating Prop. 7 because of two elements: (1) The spokespeople were well-known and trusted ‘stewards of the environment,’ groups like the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) and the Union of Concerned Scientists, and (2) an unusually well-financed campaign of $30 million was provided by a largely silent group of Big Utilities: PG&E, Sempra, and Southern California Edison.

The enviros vehemently denied any coordination with the Big Utilities, but consider this:

Last year, when the CLCV was the first environmental group out of the gate opposing Prop. 7, they also took a whopping $75,000 ‘grant’ from PG&E for ‘environmental stewardship.’ I’ve already chronicled the tight-knit bonds between the CLCV and the Big Utilities in previous posts, but even in the face of years of taking money from PG&E, this amount is a jaw-dropper. For example, in 2005 CLCV took $5,000 from PG&E, in 2006 CLCV took $5,000, and in 2007 CLCV took $12,500 from PG&E. But in the same year that CLCV lined up with PG&E in opposing stronger renewable energy mandates, they took a payment 700% higher than any previous reported year. Even PG&E admits this large amount is an anomaly: according to the grant making page on PG&E's website, “the majority of our grants are in the $1,000 to $25,000 range. Most are under $15,000.”

This forces the question: Did PG&E buy the CA League of Conservation Voters’ endorsement? And if so, how do we ever trust them again?

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Green's Advocacy Malpractice

It’s still early in the new year, and promises of green jobs and stricter carbon emission standards abound. Between the California Legislature, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Democratically-controlled Congress and White House, clean and renewable energy advocates are doubtlessly tempted to be excited. But before we sip champagne and trust the green priesthood, I suggest we take a moment to assess where we really stand in the fight to repower our lives with clean energy.

In November, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08, calling for a higher Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 33% and for streamlining the process to approve clean energy plants and transmission lines. This action triggered a flurry of activity by legislators and regulatory bodies to create implementing measures. The CA Air Resources Board, pursuant to AB 32, introduced its scoping plan late last year, also calling for a 33% RPS by 2020. (For a thorough analysis of CARB’s Scoping Plan issued by the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office, click here.) Also in late 2008, CA Assemblymember Paul Krekorian introduced AB 64, a measure aimed at implementing the increase in the RPS but lacking any enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. (I’m working on a detailed analysis of AB 64 for a future post, but so far as I can tell the bill has yet to see the light of a committee hearing). Finally, CA State Senator Joe Simitian introduced SB 14, yet another measure aimed at increasing the RPS but giving the utilities forgiving flexibility in actually meeting those requirements. (And perhaps, because of sloppy wording, SB 14 may inadvertently CAP the RPS at 33%).

It is in this atmosphere that on Tuesday, Feb. 10th, the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee held an informational hearing on SB 14. In a testament to the politically charged nature of trying to make ANY increase to the existing RPS, the hearing dragged out for five hours, as everyone from the electric utility and renewable energy industries to labor and the environmentalists lauded or chided SB 14 for its contents.

What was frustrating to me was not the length of the hearing, but its contents. The issues and contentions brought forth from the interest groups are identical to the ones that were asserted to defeat Proposition 7, the Solar and Clean Energy Act of 2008. Prop. 7 was defeated at the ballot box after an unholy alliance of PG&E, Sempra and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) formed to kill the bill with $30 million in false and misleading advertisements. Only this time, the legislative proposals offered by both Krekorian and Padilla are exceptionally forgiving to the utilities, making compliance ‘flexible’ to the point of almost being moot. Worse, neither bill carves out a prohibition against passing fines incurred to ratepayers. Perhaps that’s because the mechanism in place to levy fines is so weak as to be irrelevant, perhaps that is because most of the participants, including V. John White – lead lobbyist for the state’s renewable energy companies – were far more concerned with the utilities’ profit margin than the ratepayers’ pocketbook.

And THIS got me to thinking more about the role of advocates like V. John White (from CEERT) and Ralph Cavanagh (from NRDC). Both of these characters were on a frenzied campaign of arm twisting and manipulation to get the renewable energy companies and environmental organizations (respectively) to oppose Prop. 7. And here we are, just a few months later, in hearing rooms debating the identical issues in measures that are substantially watered-down versions (i.e. utility-friendly) of the same bill that could have been enacted law.

What does this make of the likes of V. John White and Ralph Cavanagh? I propose both of these men are guilty of advocacy malpractice.

What’s that, you ask? Malpractice is a term usually associated with surgeons who botch an operation, such as amputating the wrong leg. Or with lawyers who missed a filing date on a lawsuit that was guaranteed to win $1 million. We cringe when we hear about these malpractice stories, because we fear that we could be the next patient or client whose lives are turned upside down by professional incompetence.

This time it was the renewable energy community that had “advocacy malpractice” hoisted upon it. Last year, during the run up of oil prices to $147 and with a stock market roaring back to highs nearing 14,000, V. John White and Ralph Cavanagh recklessly persuaded their clients on behalf of the Big Utilities to oppose Proposition 7, which would have required that by 2020 all utilities, including publicly owned utilities, provide 40% of the energy they sell from clean renewable sources, such as solar, wind, and geothermal, rising to 50% by 2025. (Paul Krekorian, another vocal opponent of Prop. 7, is now calling for a 50% RPS by 2035 in his bill AB 64. I suspect his opposition came from childish territorialism, since he has proclaimed himself the King of the RPS in the Capitol).

What renewable energy and environmental advocates did in 2008 was place their bets on a cozy relationship with the state’s largest utilities, just like environmentalists did when they joined forces with Enron to pass deregulation only to see Enron collapse in a wave of scandal and criminal convictions.

And now? The dumb bets of these ‘green’ advocates – against the very interests of their clients – actually meant that they walked away with only the cards they were dealt and none of the winnings. Today, every stakeholder is back at the table, arguing the same nuances of the same issue but through the medium of a substantially weaker bill. Watching the Senate hearing on SB 14 I realized that renewable energy and environmentalist clients lost, and are paying a harsh price as victims of Advocacy Malpractice.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

To be continued....

On Tuesday, November 4th, PG&E, Sempra and Southern Cal Edison were successful in their bid to halt stronger renewable energy mandates in CA...for now. They, and their allies (aiders and abetters) in the (so-called) environmental community, may think they are off the hook in the fight to switch from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources. But those of us in the know, know that women didn't get the right to vote overnight, Cesar Chavez didn't organize the farmworkers overnight, and that we definitely didn't get a black man in the white house overnight.

In other words, this is just a battle in the war. Clean energy is coming.

I have dwelled on whether or not continuing this blog serves any purpose after Prop 7, and I've decided that after all the research I've done, I now owe a service to the public to continue this mission. The public deserves to know that the organizations they trust are bamboozling them in order to serve the interests of the Big Utilities.

I'll be taking a little time off, but check back soon. There's more to come.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote Today and Vote Yes on 7!

Well folks, this journey began several months ago with a hunt for answers. I inadvertantly stumbled upon an enviro/utility relationship that increasingly thickened the more I dug. Some of you have emailed me to point out that I have only scratched the surface, and I know that to be the truth. There is much left to be written about.

After months of wading through the available evidence, I'm convinced that energy policy in California - and renewable energy policy in particular - is grasped in the stranglehold of a few powerful entities who all share seats at the same table. I won't go into any specifics in this post because this whole blog is made up of those.

If Proposition 7 passes, it will represent the most significant stride ever made in converting from fossil fuels to clean energy sources in CA. Today, it is my sincerest wish that the $30 million, green-washed campaign against Proposition 7 has failed to resonate, and that tomorrow we wake up with the promise of a solar and clean energy future.

Now, it's time for me to head to the polls. If you haven't voted yet, you've got till 8pm tonight.

Yes on 7!

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Vote is YES on 7

I woke up this morning feeling like it was Christmas Eve. In just one day, there will be a pile of shiny new presents promising me a clean energy future. Tingling with excitement, I started preparing an entry for today that explains why I am voting for Proposition 7. Then, when I was toodling around on google, I discovered that the Sierra Club has posted an “explanation” of its opposition to Proposition 7. My jaw dropped several times while reading it – I have to think that either the person who wrote it never read Proposition 7 and just made up some phony facts about Proposition 7, or, they read it and made up phony facts about Proposition 7 anyway. Either way, I could stencil the alphabet in crayon on a paper napkin, and that would be more articulate than the Sierra Club’s confused and misleading explanation.

Allow me to explain:

The Sierra Club complains that Proposition 7: “…removes the penalty cap of $25 million per utility for not meeting renewable targets; sounds great until you realize that no penalty has ever been imposed.”

The Sierra Club leaves out two key elements: First, no fines have been imposed because the utilities have until 2010 to meet the Rewewables Portfolio Standard. Last time I checked, it’s still 2008. Second, Proposition 7 makes the penalties automatic, as opposed to leaving their assessment to the discretion of the Public Utilities Commission (which happens to be chaired by Michael Greevey, former CEO of Edison International and Southern Cal Edison). This is a major loophole in current law that Proposition 7 fixes.

Then Sierra Club complains that Proposition 7: "…lowers the penalty rate for utilities failing to meet renewable energy targets from 5 cents to only 1 cent per kilowatt-hour.”

But didn’t the Sierra Club already say that the penalties don’t get imposed, so removing the cap doesn’t do anything? So two paragraphs later you complain that the penalties are weakened? Well…that obvious confusion aside... You again leave out another critical point. The removal of the cap virtually guarantees that the penalties assessed for non-compliance will increase. The California Environmental Council’s energy policy director Tam Hunt explains:

“Currently, the PUC has set a penalty level of 5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for non-compliance, but has capped the penalty level for each year and each utility at $25 million. The Solar Act reduces the penalty amount to 1 cent per kWh, but eliminates the cap. While the cents per kWh penalty is reduced by the Solar Act, the actual effect of the Solar Act, due to its elimination of the $25 million cap for each utility, will very likely be to increase penalty amounts. For example, if PG&E is, in 2010, 5 percent behind in its annual obligations, its penalty under current law would be a maximum of $25 million,even though the uncapped amount would be about $275 million. Under the Solar Act, the penalty in this scenario would be about $55 million, more than twice what current law would allow.”

Basic math, anyone?

The Sierra Club complains that Proposition 7: “…requires regulators to consider environmental and other benefits-- up to a 10% premium-- when evaluating renewable contracts; but existing rules already do the same thing.”

First of all, WOW! That’s a hard hitting complaint. Second of all – This is the Sierra Club again being tricky and leaving out material terms from the text of Prop. 7. The independent, Legislative Analyst’s Office even pointed out this new addition to the law in their analysis of Prop 7:

"The measure makes two major changes in how the market price of electricity is defined for purposes of implementing the RPS...Second, the measure adds three new criteria to current-law requirements that the Energy Commission would need to consider when defining the market price of electricity. These criteria include consideration of the value and benefits of renewable resources.”

The Sierra Club complains that Proposition 7: “…requires city-owned utilities, or "muni's", to comply with state targets; however Sacramento and LA--the cities with the largest muni's-- have voluntarily adopted renewable targets exceeding the state mandates.”

Again, WOW! Another hard-hitting complaint. The Sierra Club would have us leave the municipally owned utilities alone (the most intense users of coal!) because some of them are making strides in converting to clean electricity generation. That makes perfect sense. No wonder the Sierra Club is, as one poster on this site observed, ‘becoming irrelevant’

But THEN, one paragraph later, the Sierra Club complains that: “…Prop. 7 proponents commonly claim, incorrectly, that Prop 7 "applies only to large utilities", as if to imply that it only goes after the big, bad boys. In fact, it would apply to utility companies of all sizes--big and small.”

Holy crap. Did this person even bother to look at the Yes on 7 website? Or read the text of the initiative? Or open a newspaper lately? This is a key, main, front and center talking point for the Yes on 7 campaign – that Prop 7 expands the RPS to include municipally owned utilities. Furthermore, since the city owned utilities are exceeding the current RPS mandate (as Sierra Club points out), then why is Prop 7 bad for them? It’s becoming more clear that the Sierra Club is talking out of both sides of its mouth on Prop. 7 because it can’t oppose Prop 7 on the merits.

The Sierra Club complains that supporters: "...argue that Prop 7 would not hurt small solar installers, because they are "excluded from Prop 7". He fails to mention, or perhaps to realize, that this "exclusion" is precisely the problem.”

Wow. (Sorry to be redundant, but this is a little incredible). First, Sierra Club, you are confusing your own talking point. You see, Prop 7 proponents never said that small providers would be excluded. Remember that one time they sued the utility-funded no on 7 campaign because THEY were (falsely) stating that Prop 7 excludes small renewable providers? Right. Because there is no language in the text of Prop 7 that excludes small providers from counting towards the RPS. This is a legal fiction concocted by the big Utilities’ lawyers. So agrees the Berkeley Center for Environmental Law and Policy and four Nobel Laureates, among many other experts in the field.

The Sierra Club complains that: "Proponents claim that the argument that Prop 7 would raise rates is "also false", even though the text of the initiative has specific allowance -- in Section 3: Purpose and Intent -- for up to a 3% rate increase, referred to as a "cap". This represents up to $1 billion in potential extra utility costs per year. Renewable energy generally costs more than electricity from conventional cheap, dirty power plants. We think it's worth the price, but it is misleading to say Prop 7 won't raise rates.”

I’m not entirely clear on what the Sierra Club intends to say in this paragraph, but what I discern is that Prop 7 can’t enforce it’s much-touted 3% cap. Well, again, this is a misunderstanding of the measure. Explained in the Hunt analysis (above):

“While the Solar Act literature discusses a "cap" on costs due to the Solar Act in order to avoid drumming up opposition by those folks who want to avoid dditional costs for renewable energy - the initiative doesn't actually impose a cap. Rather, by limiting utility obligations to those renewable energy contracts that cost no more than 10 percent above the market price referent, there is a built-in cost containment mechanism. However, if the PUC or the CEC decide they want to approve renewable energy contracts above these levels, they will be able to do so, as they can under current law within certain limitations.”

So, with all of their rationales for opposing Prop. 7 washed away simply by turning to the actual language of Prop. 7 and common sense, what other excuse does the Sierra Club have to lean on in opposing this renewable energy initiative?

The Sierra Club complains that:

“Environmental advocates tried to get sponsors to fix Prop 7, but were rebuffed.”

Now we are getting somewhere. Turf war. But the Sierra Club goes on to explain that the Sierra Club ALREADY HAS a solution, and big old Proposition 7 is going to screw it all up for them.

Says the Sierra Club:

“There are better options to Prop 7, and the Sierra Club California is working to realize them. For example: We have prepared policy recommendations for fixing the state's renewable energy laws and submitted these to the governor and key legislators and we are working for legislation that would raise the state's renewable target to 33% by 2020, a goal supported by the governor, regulators, and Democratic leadership in the state legislature.”

I keep forgetting how effective the Legislature is at getting tough measures passed. Remember that one time in 2008, when the Sierra Club and its allies had a 33% RPS by 2020 bill in the Legislature, and it dwindled to its death while no budget could get passed? Oh, or that other time, in last year’s session, when that SAME bill got killed by the Legislature? Apparently the Sierra Club’s legislative strategy is “Third time’s a charm.”

But wait, didn’t the Sierra Club say just a few paragraphs earlier in its opposition paper that the Legislature is too incompetent to muster the 2/3 vote necessary to fix even a “minor flaw?” And the Sierra Club trusts this Legislature with our energy future?

After reading this confused and inconsistent opposition paper that is posted to the Sierra Club’s homepage, I am aghast that the Sierra Club would dare accuse Prop. 7 of being poorly written. This is the most inarticulate piece of trash I have ever seen come out of a multi-million dollar organization. Clearly, Sierra Club can’t back up its opposition and is hoping its membership won’t notice the shiny “Paid for by PG&E and Southern Cal Edison” sticker at the bottom of their ads against Prop 7. But while Sierra Club has done its share of greenwashing, as I’ve written about here, this is looking to me like a turf-war/ego battle too. The proponents of Prop 7, not a part of the green in-crowd in California, dared to put forth a renewable energy measure without their blessing, and now the Sierra Club hopes Prop 7 will pay the price.

If only they would see the big picture. It’s not Proposition 7, or the financial backer Peter Sperling, who will be punished if the measure fails. It is the health and environment of California, and the future of renewable energy progress for the entire country.

Please, Solar Cali Girl followers – Vote Yes on 7!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Genuinely frightening

One more video for Halloween. This one's spooky!

Oldie but Goodie for Halloween Spooks

I’ve posted this before. But in honor of today’s holiday, I’m bringing it back! What is PG&E, Sempra and Southern Cal Edison's campaign against clean energy dressing up as for Halloween? Environmentalists!

Happy Halloween! And let’s give PG&E a real scare - vote yes on 7 today if you haven’t yet!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sierra Club's Big Disgrace

There has been a lot of talk about the Sierra Club's opposition to Proposition 7. No doubt, PG&E, Southern Cal Edison, and Sempra were positively giddy when a Sierra Club member agreed to star in a commercial for them, hoping to signal the death knell on new clean and renewable energy requirements from Prop 7.

Of course, I and readers of this blog know that Sierra Club has certainly done its share of corporate greenwashing in the past. So it wasn’t too surprising to learn that the Sierra Club member who was willing to go on a Utility Funded no on prop 7 commercial, Liz Merry, works for the Big Utilities. All of them.

You see – the Big Utilities’ darling Sierra Club star is the sole proprietor of a solar consulting firm called Verve Solar. Her client list includes a utility industry association called the Solar Electric Power Association, whose members include all of the key utility energy players in California - PG&E, Edison, SDG&E, LADWP, SMUD, and many of the municipally owned utilities. It also contains Edison Electric Institute and the Electric Power Research Institute, two nationwide Big Utility lobbying groups, and major supporters of "clean coal" and nuclear.

Sometimes I wonder how these people – the Ralph Cavanaghs, V. John Whites, and Liz Merrys of the ‘environmental world’ can sleep at night, willingly putting their green stamps on the Big Utilities dirty energy agenda.
No wonder this has been said about the Sierra Club:

“When Muhammad Ali stated, “Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision”, he obviously wasn’t referring to the green beltway boys. Sierra Club visionaries like John Muir and David Brower must be in heaven looking down sadly as nature is dismantled, aided and abetted by its own proclaimed stewards.”

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Big Money Report

The latest campaign report came online this week. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s going on with money:

So far, Pacific Gas & Electric, Sempra, and Southern Cal Edison have spent $29,564,547.87 on defeating Prop. 7, the clean and renewable energy initiative. Let’s see where their money is going:

  1. $547,160 on polling since June 10th. $300,600 of that was spent between October 1st and October 18th. Fascinating that the 3 Big Utilities are spending that much on polling but they have yet to release a poll.
  2. $25,300,000 on television and radio. The Big Utilities must believe that they will win the hearts and minds of voters through sheer inundation (brainwashing).
  3. $1,075,150 on buying up space on slate mailers. Industries like tobacco and oil are notorious for using slate mailers to trick people into voting against measures that would regulate those industries. Unsurprisingly, the Big Utilities are no different.
  4. $192,562.66 on a republican political consulting firm that uses fuzzy math to help giant industries get voters to oppose measures that regulate their industries. (See a pattern here?)

That brings us to $27,114,872.66 on message management. But wait, there’s more! I found this little gem in the campaign’s online filings:

5. $16,551.34 – that’s how much Brian Leubitz, the administrator of the California political blog http://www.calitics.com/, has been paid by PG&E, Southern Cal Edison, and Sempra to run the Facebook page called “Join Environmentalists in Opposing Prop 7.” I thought about leaving a comment on its wall recommending a slight name change (something like “Join Environmentalists Who Sell out to PG&E in Opposing Prop 7) but interestingly, Brian took down the whole wall and removed the ability to comment when someone mentioned that Brian is paid by the Big Utilities to run that facebook page.

With just over a week until the election, this is the Big Utilities current balance sheet: $364,316 cash on hand, and $155,382 in outstanding debt. You can go through the campaign filings yourself here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Yes on 7 Commercial - Listen to the scientists!

The Big Utilities' Green Halo

Just posted this article on Daily Kos:

People ask themselves ‘why do the environmentalists oppose proposition 7?’ Or, they don’t ask any questions at all, blissfully unaware that they are accepting the deliberately flawed claims about Prop 7 concocted by the state’s 3 Big Utilities – PG&E, Southern California Edison, and Sempra. But who can blame them? You will never see PG&E at any debates about Prop 7. You are more likely to see one of California’s handful of environmental groups holding out the anti-prop 7 arguments concocted by the Big Utilities’ republican law firm.

So shouldn’t the real question be: Why have the likes of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the League of Conservation Voters (CLCV), and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) sold out to the Big Utilities to help them greenwash their anti-clean energy campaign?

Months ago, I found myself baffled by the vehement opposition to Proposition 7. The NRDC, CLCV, and UCS came out swinging against a renewable energy proposition that increases the goals that they have been fighting to achieve for decades, seals all the loopholes in existing law that made non-compliance a “business decision’ for the Big Utilities, creates 370,000 new jobs, and even protects consumers by explicitly prohibiting the Big Utilities from passing off their fines for non-compliance onto ratepayers. These are the reasons that Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, is the state campaign co-chair. These are the reasons that Dr. Donald Aitken, an original proponent of a Renewables Portfolio Standard, signed the ballot argument, that three Nobel Laureates are urging Californians to support this measure, and that S. David Freeman, perhaps the country’s foremost energy policy expert, is the measure’s chief spokesman.

So what’s so wrong with prop 7 that these mainstream environmental groups are fighting so hard to defeat it?

A closer scrutiny of the environmentalists’ claims about Prop 7 reveals that their arguments are murky and quickly dissolve if one actually reads the text of the initiative. (See an article by energy policy expert and lecturer Tam Hunt rebutting the No campaigns flawed arguments here.) As Dr. Don Aitken noted in a public letter, “the opponents were being pretty hasty and sloppy, indicative (to me) that there must be a much deeper underlying reason for their opposition, and the particulars of the initiative were at least in part some sort of cover.”

When I first learned of their opposition to Prop 7, and witnessed how hard these mainstream environmental groups were campaigning to defeat the measure, I took a closer look at the language of the initiative and what the Legislative Analyst’s Office had to say on the measure. Nowhere in the text is there anything remotely close to a “competition elimination provision”, or a provision to lock in rates at 10% above market costs (which are two of their favorite claims). The Legislative Analyst’s Office also didn’t notice any of these scary things that the Republican law firm hired by PG&E, Sempra, and Southern Cal Edison (with their $30 million war chest to defeat Prop 7) managed to create out of thin air.

Confident in my conclusion that Prop 7 is quite a good measure, I next decided to research the three environmental groups that at that time were the ‘faces’ of the No on 7 campaign. I started by looking at the financial information available on the internet, including the grant lists that PG&E kindly makes available on its website. I also looked at their board memberships and some of their past activities. It wasn’t long before a painful truth became crystal clear: These mainstream environmental groups were hijacked by big industry interests long ago.

Consider this about the CLCV:

· CLCV’s Board of Directors is loaded with Big Utility insiders, including a guy who began his career with PG&E, and in 1985 he argued on behalf of PG&E to the United States Supreme Court to allow PG&E to send political editorials to its customers (in the envelope that contained the monthly billing statement) on messages PG&E wanted to propagate – USING ratepayer’s money to do it. In other words, the current secretary of the CLCV won the case that allowed PG&E to use its customers’ money to send political messages to those customers, citing Corporate Free Speech rights.

· CLCV lauds PG&E and Sempra repeatedly on its website – for sponsoring its events. PG&E and Sempra pay for CLVC’s environmental rewards banquets every year. See CLVC’s 13th Annual Environmental Leadership Awards – Sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric and The Gas Company, CLVC’s 14th Annual Environmental Leadership Gala – Sponsored by PG&E and Sempra, CLCV’s 24th Annual Environmental Leadership Award – Champion Sponsor PG&E, CLCV’s 26th Annual Environmental Leadership Award – Champion Sponsor PG&E.

· CLCV takes grants from PG&E. $12,500 in 2007, $5,000 in 2006, $5,000 in 2005.

Consider this about the NRDC:

· NRDC has a long and well-documented history supporting industry giants like Enron. NRDC, with energy policy director Ralph Cavanagh leading the way, was THE leading environmental group that cheered on Enron’s deregulation bid. Ralph Cavanagh and the NRDC are credited with “breaking the backs of other environmentalists” to pass deregulation and then kill a consumer-advocate initiative that would have re-regulated the industry. See the story as it was chronicled at the height of CA’s energy crisis and rolling black outs here, here, here, here, here, here and buy the book here. Or just google NRDC and deregulation.

· From a 2001 Counter Punch article: “The fall of Enron sounds the death knell for one of the great rackets of the past decade: green seals of approval, whereby some outfit like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) or Environmental Defense (ED) would issue testimonials to the enviro-conscience and selfless devotion to the public weal of corporations like Enron. These green seals of approval were part of the neoliberal pitch: that fuddy-duddy regulation should yield to modern, "market-oriented solutions" to environmental problems...Indeed, NRDC and ED were always the prime salesfolk of neoliberal remedies for environmental problems. In fact, NRDC was socked into the Enron lobby machine so deep you couldn't see the soles of its feet.”

· From a PG&E press release: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) honored PG&E for the company’s long and ongoing track record of environmental leadership -- only the third such presentation that the NRDC has made in the group’s history. The honors were presented to Darbee by Ralph Cavanagh, senior NRDC attorney, and Devra Wang, Director of NRDC’s California Energy Program. “PG&E sets the bar on environmental leadership for all utilities,” said Cavanagh. Among other things, PG&E was being honored by NRDC that day for its clean coal technology.

· John Bryson, a CEO of Southern Cal Edison, co-founded the NRDC and remains close friends with Ralph Cavanagh.

· NRDC was one of a handful of corporate connected quasi environmental organizations that endorsed the NAFTA, which most real green groups bitterly opposed.

Consider that the officers for the NRDC, CLCV and UCS sit on the same boards of directors as the Big Utilities of groups that accept Big Utility money:

CA Foundation on the Environment and the Economy
Board of Directors
NRDC, Sheryl Carter - Vice Chairman
Southern California Edison, CEO, Alan Fohrer
Environmental Defense, Thomas Graff
Union of Concerned Scientists, Amy Lynd Luers
PG & E Sr. Vice President, Nancy McFadden
Contributions Received from UtilitiesPG & E - $40,000 (2006)

Alliance to Save Energy
Board of Directors
NRDC President, Frances Beinecke – ASE BOD
Southern California Edison, John Fielder
Pacific Gas & Electric, William T. Morrow
Contributions Received from UtilitiesPG & E - $80,000 (2005 – 2006)

Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies
Board of Directors
GE Generation VP of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs (former); MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. (former), Jonathan M. Weisgall – CEERT Board President.
Sempra/SDG&E (former); Calpine (former); Edison Mission Energy (former), Deborah Reyes - CEERT Board Member.
Enron (former), Robert T. Boyd - CEERT Board Member.
NRDC, Ralph Cavanagh, Board Member.
FPL Energy, Diane Fellman, Board Member
Environmental Defense, Karen Douglas, Board Member
Union of Concerned Scientists, Clifford Chen, Board Member

Even more shocking to me was the discovery that climate change scientists, scholars and academics have written books chronicling the Big Utilities’ grip on mainstream environmental groups to silence their opposition and, indeed, turn them into allies.

In Who Owns the Sun, author Dan Berman, PhD (a journalist, professor, & environmental activist) writes about how

“America's most powerful corporations, utilities, and environmental organizations are in league with government to protect a dirty little secret: Solar power is a better way of meeting this nation's (or, for that matter, any other's) future electrical needs. But even though we already have the technology to turn sunlight into clean, reliable power, they want to keep us in the dark.

Energy corporations manipulate congress, and handsomely reward congressional advocates, to keep people hooked on fossil fuels and delay solar development. The utility industry is poised to slap a meter on the sun once fossil fuels are depleted. Corporations have found ways to collaborate with (and silence) former environmental adversaries. This book contains documented proof of how utilities are crippling—and attempting to own—solar energy.”

In Green, Inc. a former staffer at Conservation International

“…reveals the seedy underbelly of the greenwashing movement where brand-name environmental groups provide a PR bonanza for some of the worst polluters in corporate America, and get paid to do it. Americans will never look at many environmental groups the same way after reading Green Inc. Green Inc. should stir a revolt among the dues-paying membership of the environmental movement against those who believe working with oil companies to improve their image is the way to save the earth.”

The Big Utilities and mainstream environmental groups, NRDC, CLCV and UCS were only too happy when a full nine months after they launched their aggressive attack against Prop 7 on behalf of the Big Utilities, they finally cajoled the Sierra Club to get in line. In the last week of September, the Sierra Club sadly joined ranks in perpetuating the talking points set forth by the Big Utilities on their misleading No campaign website. They absurdly state that Prop 7 provides loopholes for the Big Utilities, as does the UCS. If this were the case (and in fact, the exact opposite is true), then why would the state’s big three utility companies be spending $30 million to defeat the measure? As Dr. Aitken stated in his public letter: “It dismays me to see the environmentalists resorting to such tactics, and presenting arguments not based on fact, or that distort fact. And it should certainly dismay them to be in bed with the utilities, who are absolutely gleeful that they have a cover for their perennial opposition to more aggressive applications of renewable.”

Now, instead of wondering whether or not there is a connection between the Big Utilities and the environmentalists opposing Prop 7, I demand answers from the CLVC, the NRDC, and CEERT. Explain to me, on behalf of the hundred of thousands of small contributions you’ve taken from your members, how you can say with a straight face that you are fighting the Big Utilities that fund you and make up your board memberships? Doesn’t common sense dictate that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you? Why should we believe your sincerity in opposing Prop 7 when you are so clearer tied to the Big Utilities that Prop. 7 would regulate?

Your members, and the CA voters you are deceiving on behalf of the Big Utilities, deserve better.

The stakes have never been higher for the Big Utilities. Proposition 7 fills in the loopholes in current law, so that the utilities cannot escape compliance as they can now. The question that people should be asking themselves is not – “why do the environmentalists oppose prop 7?” It should be, “why have these environmental groups sold out the future of our planet to financially benefit some of the worst polluters on the planet?”

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Utilities Hire Republican Firm to Perform Dirty Tricks

With time running out for the Big Utilities to come up with new lies about Proposition 7 to trick people into voting against it (no pun intended in light of the upcoming holiday), they've continued to rely on the fabrication that Proposition 7 excludes small renewable energy producers. And I use the word 'fabrication' deliberately – neither the independent, non-partisan legislative analyst’s office nor the attorney general, nor in fact, any other attorney that reviewed Proposition 7, identified the ‘small producer issue’ other than the republican law firm hired by the Big Utilities to create it. It’s important to remember that the republican law firm was hired (at great expense) to find a way for the Big Utilities to defeat Proposition 7, no matter how tenuous their argument. Unable to find a real critique of Prop 7 they’ve created issues to confuse and scare voters. It’s not a new campaign tactic.

I thought it would be helpful to post a video of David Freeman explaining just how wrong the Big Utilities and the main stream environmentalist groups they fund are on Prop 7.

Also – just a quick note to say I’ve noticed two things in the last couple of weeks.

(1) Newspapers don’t read initiatives either, apparently. Their articles and reviews mimic the outright lies that the Big Utilities and their shill groups are spreading about Proposition 7. So much for investigative reporting or even the threshold act of fact-checking.
(2) Supporters of Prop 7 are doing a bang up job of calling journalists out for implicitly helping the Big Utilities with their disinformation campaign, and correcting them when they state the facts wrong. I was so excited to see some of these comments that I want to post a couple here, including one mention of the video I’ve included in this post:

“…please note that one of the biggest misconceptions that is still being marketed is that Prop 7 would rule out small businesses and other facilities from qualifying for the Renewable Portfolio Standard because there is a 30 megawatt clause. David Freeman, an authority on energy nationwide, and especially here in California as former head of SMUD and LA DWP, clears this up unequivocally in his testimony to the Joint Legislative Hearing on Prop 7, "Prop 7 changes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about what size can qualify. The opponents fail to distinguish between "facilities" which count toward the RPS without any size limitations, and "plants" over 30 megawatts - for siting purposes only - will be approved by the Energy Commission....the 30 megawatt distinction applies to plants which do not need an Energy Commission permit in the first place."

I'd also like to share that Dr. Donald Aitken - physicist, solar architect, former Chief of Research at the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-creator of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is supporting Prop 7 as an uncompensated individual. Unlike, many of the groups opposing Prop 7. Take a look at PG&E's grant list and you will find both political parties along with many others. Prop 7 is looking out for the consumers and the small businesses, unlike our friends from SCE, PG&E and Sempra. Do not be fooled by the millions of dollars they have to spin the "facts" of this initiative and vote Yes on 7.

Great comment! This shows a real citizen-driven democracy! And this one:

Unfortunately, the authors of this editorial don't seem to have taken the time to read the text of Prop 7, or the Legislative Analyst's report on Prop 7. If they had, they would know that Prop 7 does not limit the eligibility of any project based on size. Prop 7 does not change the law on this issue in any way that matters. Moreover, even if it did (for the sake of argument), it would have no negative impact on the small renewable energy market in California. California approved a $3 billion program last year for small solar. And Congress just passed today an 8 year extension of the 30% investment tax credit for solar. These are huge boosts for small solar and are in no way impacted by Prop 7. Prop 7 is not perfect, but on balance it is quite good. It will take us far in achieving much higher levels of renewables, through large- medium- and small-scale renewable energy sources. We need all of these if we are to have a sustainable future.

Both can be found, with the complete article, here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“Electricity deregulation is a matter of religious faith” says No on 7’s chief economist

I noticed that the No on Prop 7 website has what appear to be several white papers on the economic impacts if Prop 7 passes. These white papers are all predicated with the phrase “economists predict…”

Not surprisingly, these 'white papers' forecast nothing short of a financial apocalypse if Proposition 7 passes. All the doom-and-gloom predictions made me curious about who these ‘economists’ doing all this ‘predicting’ were.

Oops…Looks like what the utility-funded No on 7 campaign meant to say was: The Sacramento-based political consulting firm that has been paid over $100,000 by PG&E, Sempra, and Southern Cal Edison to defeat Proposition 7 predicts…”

True story. The ‘economists’ that the Big Utilities are trying to scare people with is actually a Republican political consulting firm called The Forward Observer that is staffed by Gov. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger advisors. Incidentally, this is not the first measure the Forward Observer was hired by big industry money to defeat

“Californians for Affordable Prescriptions retained Forward Observer to assist in a campaign to support Proposition 78 and oppose Proposition 79 on the November 2005 California statewide ballot. The initiatives were competing measures addressing the cost of prescription drugs in California. The campaign committee sought out Forward Observer to assist in advancing substantive arguments and responding to the opposition.”

Proposition 78 was the measure sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, which was in a tizzy over Proposition 79’s promise to lower prices on prescription drugs for poor people and seniors.

But more interesting than the Forward Observer’s past campaigns may be the Forward Observer’s ‘economists’ themselves.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the remarkable thing to me about looking into who opposes Prop. 7 is the emerging roles that all of these parties played in getting deregulation passed for the Big Utilities. Turns out, the Forward Observer’s economist was right there with PG&E, SDG&E, Ralph Cavanagh of the NRDC, the Democratic and Republican parties, all working together to help Enron and the Big Utilities get deregulation passed in the Legislature.

From a February, 2001 New York Times article:

“…since deregulation began in earnest, this dogma (that market competition makes electricity cheaper) faces a serious real-world failure.

Despite this, many economists still think that electricity deregulation will work. A product is a product, they say, and competition always works better than state control.

"I believe that premise as a matter of religious faith," said Philip J. Romero, dean of the business school at the University of Oregon and one of the architects of California's deregulation plan. Optimists like Romero say the current period is merely an ugly transition, not yet even true deregulation."

Interestingly, S. David Freeman is also quoted in the above article, pointing out something of the obvious to us now:

Deregulation promised much, but at least in California, it hasn't yet delivered, and people lose patience very quickly when the lights go out. As S. David Freeman, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, said, "What is the purpose that's being served by going to a system of higher prices, other than satisfying people who believe that the marketplace is better?"

Like all of the No on 7 campaign’s ‘experts’, the Forward Observer’s ‘economists’ were assisting in deregulating California’s electricity market and defending the move even after the lights had gone dark on Californians. And then, as now, S. David Freeman was fighting against the Big Utilities’ lie campaign.

I posed the question in the headline of my blog – What’s with all the inexplicable opposition to Proposition 7, the Solar and Clean Energy Act of 2008?” It would seem to me that the Big Utilities are terrified of Proposition 7 because it removes all the loopholes in current law, so that they cannot avoid the mandate to get off dirty fossil fuels and coal, which is cheaper and more lucrative for them. And indeed, every layer of this onion that I unpeel reveals another connection to the Big Utilities.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sempra adds $2 Mil - Total utility spending now $29.5 million

Looks like PG&E and Southern Cal Edison were feeling like they were carrying the entire financial burden in defeating Proposition 7. Until now, these two utility-giants had each contributed over $13 million to defeat Proposition 7, while Sempra kicked in just over $100,000.

With Election Day just three weeks away, and most of their war chest already spent on television ads, Sempra has thrown down an additional $2 million dollars to defeat Prop 7, bringing the Big Utilities’ total spent, so far, to $29.5 million. They must be really scared.

$2 million dollars is just enough for a state-wide ad buy. It will be interesting what the Big Utilities come out with next. They’ve been hiding behind environmental front groups and running non-stop smear commercials for months now, and yet they’ve refused to release the results of a single poll.

Stay tuned.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Green, Inc. - A Preview

After nearly two months (and $20 million spent on t.v. and radio alone) of deceitful television/radio commercials from the utility-funded No on Prop 7 campaign, PG&E and Southern California Edison executives are hoping that the thought they’ve impressed into everyone’s minds is “The environmental groups oppose Proposition 7! Oh my!" They are crossing their fingers that by trotting out environmental groups, people won’t notice the Big Utilities’ $28 million anti-clean energy campaign those ‘environmental’ groups are fronting for.

After all,

“…while it seems easy to take unflattering insider accounts from certain industries -- say, the energy and chemicals industries -- at face value, it is much more difficult to fully accept the criticisms made of environmental non-profits like The Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club, many of which some of us have either worked with or volunteered for in the past.”

But it appears that popular culture may finally be ready for the truth about corporate America’s hijacking of the environmental movement.

This month, a scathing insider’s perspective on how America’s environmentalists have been taken over by oil, gas, coal and electricity industry insiders has been published, complete with charts and graphs and all the goodies necessary to understand the free flow of money from the Big Utilities that has mutated the environmental groups we blindly trusted.

For months now I’ve been making the case that the environmental groups opposed to Proposition 7 are acting as a willing front group for the utilities funding the No on 7 campaign, for two main reasons: (1) collectively they’ve taken millions of dollars from the utilities in ‘grants’ over the years and (2) their board memberships are comprised of past and former utility executives.

Apparently, this is a national epidemic.

Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court says

“Green Inc. is a must read. Christine MacDonald reveals the seedy underbelly of the greenwashing movement where brand-name environmental groups provide a PR bonanza for some of the worst polluters in corporate America, and get paid to do it. Americans will never look at many environmental groups the same way after reading Green Inc. Green Inc. should stir a revolt among the dues-paying membership of the environmental movement against those who believe working with oil companies to improve their image is the way to save the earth.”

MacDonald hits the nail on the head. This is exactly what the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Union of Concerned Scientists are doing for PG&E, Southern Cal Edison, and Sempra to help them defeat stricter renewable energy requirements in California. A preview of the book states:

“In Spring 2006, Christine MacDonald left journalism for a dream job at Conservation International, one of the world’s largest environmental organizations. Soon after she reported to the groups Washington, D.C. offices, it became all too apparent to her that something is rotten in today’s clubby, well-upholstered world of conservationists.

Green, Inc. is a riveting first person account of an eco-warriors travails at the cross roads of the non-profit and corporate worlds – one that will shock anyone who has ever made a donation to an environmental group.”

And from a New York Times book review:

“Why must conservation leaders make more than 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers? Once they get used to such lavish pay, doesn’t it follow that fundraising — to keep those salaries coming — would trump their core mission?

Those compromised missions, Ms. MacDonald argues, find their fullest expression when corporate donors — from energy and car companies like B.P., Exxon Mobil and G.M. to retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot — are able to maintain the allegiance, or at least the silence, of environmental organizations, even as those businesses pursue separate agendas that contribute to climate change, deforestation and other environmental sins.”


“In example after example, groups that get too close to corporations lose their ability to be critical. To some extent it might be human nature – the nonprofit leaders develop friendships with corporate leaders and don’t want to criticize their friends. On another level it’s practical – organizations that become dependent on corporate dollars to pay for programs and salaries don’t want to risk losing the funding.”

This last point really hit home. The environmental groups opposed to Proposition 7 have very close relationships with the Big Utilities opposing it. The NRDC ‘energy czar’ and No on 7 spokesman, Ralph Cavanagh, was a Yale classmate and friend of the recent CEO of Edison International, (Southern California Edison’s parent company), John Bryson. Bryson, interestingly, co-founded NRDC. But that’s just one example. If you look at the board of directors of these groups, both the environmental groups and the pro-industry groups that claim to have an ‘environmental’ bent, you will quickly see that they all have the same cast of characters determining the agendas.

Proposition 7 is the strictest law ever proposed to move California off dirty fossil fuels and onto clean and renewable energy sources. No surprise the Big Utilities that have spent years ingratiating themselves to our environmental groups through windfall funding and strategic board membership positions are pulling every card they have to defeat it.

The environmental groups should be ashamed of profiting from the Big Utilities by advancing their agenda. Instead of asking themselves why the environmentalists oppose a clean and renewable initative, voters should be asking themselves: Why have the environmental groups become front groups for the big utility (and oil, and gas) industry agendas?