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.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Big Money from Big Utilities

This is how serious Pacific Gas and Electric and the other Big Utilities in CA are about defeating Prop. 7: They contributed $24 million dollars to the No on Prop 7 campaign. Compare that to the total giving by electric utilities to candidates in the 2004 and 2005 election cycles: $30.3 million. That’s right, the Big Utilities in CA are spending almost as much as all the nation’s electric utilities did in two election cycles just to defeat prop. 7. And that’s not to mention the millions spent over the years “sponsoring” events and doling out grants to ‘environmental’ groups. I expect we’ll be seeing some gloom and doom television commercials to incite hysteria in the coming days.

On a related note, California’s Democrat and Republic Party committees were among the highest recipients of energy industry money in 2004 and 2006, taking $1,113,180 and $4,000,357 respectively.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Utility Shill NRDC attacks Prop. 7

The utility-shill NRDC is on the attack against Prop. 7. My response is posted below:

Dear Craig Noble,

Please take this in the most respectful manner possible. Before you regurgitate the talking points of another organization, I suggest you (1) READ the initiative you are lamenting before you add your name to the opposition and (2) do a little bit of research on the organizations whose opposition you are parroting.

First of all, the initiative is not long and complex. Many have said that Proposition 7 is a complex 45 plus page initiative. In fact, the portion that is actual NEW law amounts to 8 pages. Anyone who has worked in the public policy field knows that when you amend existing law you must include the complete text of the statute you are amending – thus 45 pages. Read the initiative, new law in italics, existing law in regular font.

Now, a point-by-point response to the lies that the NRDC has been propagating on behalf of the big utilities and that you repeat here.

1.The utilities, vis a vis NRDC, want voters to forget that it was the NRDC that made deregulation of the electricity market in CA possible, and then spearheaded the opposition campaign to kill a voter-initiated proposition (prop 9) to mitigate what would ultimately be the devastating effects of rolling blackouts and an energy crisis. You parrot the big utilities when you say that the people who wrote the initiative don’t know what they are doing, when in fact: It was Ralph Cavanagh of the NRDC that broke the backs of other environmentalists to pass deregulation on behalf of the utilities and who testified in Oregon ON BEHALF OF ENRON so that Enron could purchase the Oregon utility. Either the NRDC and Ralph Cavanagh are shills for the big utilities or they have no room to claim other people don’t know what they are talking about. See the following articles and books that credit Ralph Cavanagh and NRDC with the 2001 energy crisis in CA: “How Environmentalists Sold Out California to Help Enron,” Center for Media and Democracy, Third Quarter Volume 3 2003; “A Dime’s Worth of Difference,” Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, (Counterpunch 2004) available at http://www.amazon.com/Dimes-Worth-Difference-Beyond-Counterpunch/dp/1904859038; “American Foundations: An Investigative History,” Mark Dowie, (MIT Press 2001) available at http://books.google.com/books?id=Nv1SZdM1tz0C; “Power Play: A California Ballot Drive Tries to Short Circuit a Utility Industry Bailout,” Harvey Wasserman, 10/27/1998, available at http://www.salon.com/news/1998/10/27newsb.html to name only a few.

2.You say that Prop. 7 COULD exclude small energy providers and then you say it will. Perhaps your hesitance is the fact that both the Legislative Analyst Office and the Attorney General, in their analyses of Prop.7, both found that the language of the initiative did not exclude small providers and that the ‘fear’ was created by the utility-funded opposition campaign.

3.Prop. 7 does not “slash penalties.” It does exactly the opposite! Currently, the existing penalty is no more than a regulation NOT a law, which makes it highly questionable if it will ever be enforced – given than it has no reaI legal teeth. Prop. 7 makes the penalty actual law. Meaning the utilities will be held legally liable for non compliance – i.e. lawsuits, fines, and real consequences. Prop. 7, in addition to making the fine law, strengthens it by removing the existing cap on fines ($26 million) and makes the penalties automatic. Again, READ the initiative before you spout the utilities’ arguments.

4.Prop. 7 does not limit environmental reviews. I point you to the language of the initiative itself: Prop. 7 contains language which requires that every solar and clean energy facility and related transmission line must "show that there is substantial evidence that the project will not cause a significant adverse impact on the environment or electrical and transmission and distribution system will comply with all applicable standards, ordinances, or laws..." (See Prop. 7 Section 23, Amending Public Resources Code section 25550 (a).)Further, in Section 23, amending PRC 25550, Prop. 7 requires that "...solar and clean energy plants and related facilities reviewed under this process (i.e. the Energy Commission's "fast-tracing process") shall satisfy the requirements of section 25520 and other necessary information required by the commission by regulation including the information required by permitting by each local, state, and regional agency that would have jurisdiction but for the exclusive jurisdiction of the commission, and the information required for the permitting by each federal agency that has jurisdiction over the proposed solar and clean energy plant and related facilities."The reference to PRC section 25520 includes the following language contained in existing law, located outside the initiative, which has not been amended, but which relates to the approval process. PRC section 25520 states in full:"The application shall contain all of the following information and any other information that the commission by regulation may require: (a) A detailed description of the design, construction, and operation of the proposed facility. (b) Safety and reliability information, including, in addition to documentation previously provided pursuant to Section 25511, planned provisions for emergency operations and shutdowns. (c) Available site information, including maps and descriptions of present and proposed development and, as appropriate, geological, aesthetic, ecological, seismic, water supply, population, and load center data, and justification for the particular site proposed. (d) Any other information relating to the design, operation, and siting of the facility that the commission may specify. (e) A description of the facility, the cost of the facility, the fuel to be used, the source of fuel, fuel cost, plant service life and capacity factor, and generating cost per kilowatthour. (f) A description of any electric transmission lines, including the estimated cost of the proposed electric transmission line; a map in suitable scale of the proposed routing showing details of the rights-of-way in the vicinity of settled areas, parks, recreational areas, and scenic areas, and existing transmission lines within one mile of the proposed route; justification for the route, and a preliminary description of the effect of the proposed electric transmission line on the environment, ecology, and scenic, historic, and recreational values."

To conclude on this point:

Prop. 7:* Provides that all existing reviews under local, regional, state, or federal jurisdictions be considered and evaluated by the Energy Commission in its review of solar and clean energy plants and related facilities (transmission lines).
* Includes provisions for a regulatory process (new regulations to be drafted in a public setting and with hearings, to be included in the California Code of Administrative Procedures) to further address the environmental review process of the Energy Commission for solar and clean energy plants and related facilities.

Mr. Noble, you concede that you don’t understand all the details of the initiative, but that since the NRDC and a few select environmental groups (that receive windfall funding from the utilities, see the Secretary of State’s website or PG&E’s charitable contributions page) are opposed, you are opposed too.

Mr. Noble, I regret to inform you that you have been bamboozled by the big utility shills, NRDC being chief among them. The NRDC has been wrong before. They have been wrong on utility deregulation, the electricity crisis of 2001 and they are wrong again. READ the initiative and decide for yourself.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Lesson from Colorado

There’s a good Washington Post article today that talks about the success of a 2004 ballot initiative in Colorado that required utilities to produce 10% of their electricity from renewable energy sources:

When Colorado voters were deciding whether to require that 10 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable fuels, the state's largest utility fought the proposal, warning that any shift from coal and natural gas would be costly, uncertain and unwise.

Apparently, Colorado voters also had to accept or reject the scare tactics of a Big Utility unwilling to make the shift from coal and gas to clean energy.

After legislative efforts failed, proponents of renewable energy turned to the ballot that year. The initiative, Amendment 37, required the state's biggest utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Advocates found themselves facing off against Xcel, which said it feared for its bottom line.

What makes this article great is that it is about an initiative that passed FOUR YEARS ago. So we in California can take a little peak into what our future might be if Prop 7 passes:

Then a funny thing happened. The ballot initiative passed, and Xcel Energy met the requirement eight years ahead of schedule. And at the government's urging, its executives quickly agreed to double the target, to 20 percent.

But Colorado’s experience also teaches us that we shouldn’t expect we won’t continue to get the same gloom-and-doom propaganda from the Big Utilities if Prop 7 does pass.

Colorado's growing political and economic commitment to renewables is causing fear in the oil and gas industry, which is fighting to keep its tax breaks and its influence over state rulemaking. "We're not feeling very cherished," said Collins, whose oil and gas association represents more than 30 companies.

Alice Madden, the Democratic majority leader in the Colorado House, looks at the oil and gas industry today and recalls Xcel before the passage of Amendment 37. She has little sympathy for Collins's arguments, especially at a time when oil and gas profits are soaring.
"It's Chicken Little all over again: 'The sky is going to fall,' " said Madden, who also chairs Western Progress, an advocacy group. "The oil and gas companies see the writing on the wall, the shift to renewables. They want to make as much money as they can, right now."

In the run up to the 2004 election in Colorado, the Big Utilities there used almost identical scare-tactics to persuade voters to let them remain addicted to dirty coal and oil. Amendment 37 will “add hundreds of millions of dollars to customers’ bills” and “Amendment 37 is unnecessary because Colorado already ranks eighth in the country among states using renewable energy.”

Here, the Big Utilities are trying to scare the bejeezus out of voters with claims that Prop 7 will “lock in market rates at 10% above market price and lead to increases for rate payers” and that Prop 7 makes the market “ripe for manipulation that could lead to another energy crisis.”

I won’t dwell on the hypocrisy of the Big Utilities’ who engineered the 2001 energy crisis, with the help of the select environmental groups now opposed to Prop. 7, now leveling charges that harken to those dark days.

Instead, I’ll focus on the positive. In a court ruling earlier this month, a Sacramento Superior Court judge threw out a lawsuit by the No on Prop 7 campaign alleging that the Yes on 7 side was false and misleading in stating that “the measure would never add more than 3 percent annually to residents' electric bills, that it would create over 370,000 new jobs and that it would bar utilities from passing penalties onto ratepayers if the utilities failed to meet the measure's requirements for renewable energy.”

The Big Utilities will undoubtedly unleash a barrage of negative television ads and mail pieces to trick voters into voting against Prop 7. I'd love to hear from folks on this - anyone get a mail piece or a phone call yet from No on Prop 7 campaign? If so, what are they saying?

Let’s hope CA voters see past the propaganda and lies and that the Big Utilities here are taught the same lesson the Big Utilities in Colorado had to swallow.