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Why Councilman Greig Smith Thinks Villaraigosa's Carbon Surcharge is a Scam

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Photo by mjmonty via Flickr


Photo by mjmonty via Flickr
At yesterday's L.A City Council meeting, Northwest Valley Councilman Greig Smith stood up, raised his voice and let it be known why he would never vote to raise electricity rates via Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's carbon surcharge plan. "The proposal has been hyped as a way to wean the City off of the use of coal-powered electricity, but it does nothing to reduce coal for the first five years," he wrote today in an open letter to the community.

"I have a strong and consistent record of supporting sustainable and clean alternative energy and green technology in Los Angeles, including solar power," he continues. "I have personally installed a solar power system and made extensive energy saving improvements to my home. I have consistently supported green technologies and renewable energy."

That may be true, but Smith last summer also controversially admitted he was breaking the law by watering his lawn when it was illegal to do so. His contention was that the watering laws were turning his constituents' lawns brown.

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Nonetheless, Smith has good points. "Under the claim that it is an emergency, this proposal has been rushed without the sufficient public review that is required for any rate increases under the motion that I introduced in 2004," he said. "The City Council asked DWP for information about this proposal in August 2009. But they waited until the end of March and now are trying to rush this past the public by claiming that it is a financial emergency that threatens the City with insolvency if not passed by April 1. The Neighborhood Councils were not given enough time to review the proposal."

Villaraigosa already sent out a statement earlier. Smith's full letter is below:

Dear Friend: I voted no on the DWP’s power rate increases this week.

My support for clean and renewable power remains unwavering, but the proposed Energy Cost Adjustment Factor (ECAF) increase and the Mayor’s additional Carbon Surcharge for renewable energy is terrible for the economy, for jobs, and for families struggling to make ends meet.

The proposal has been hyped as a way to wean the City off of the use of coal-powered electricity, but it does nothing to reduce coal for the first five years.

I have a strong and consistent record of supporting sustainable and clean alternative energy and green technology in Los Angeles, including solar power. I have personally installed a solar power system and made extensive energy saving improvements to my home. I have consistently supported green technologies and renewable energy.

This proposal is anything but environmental. While it sets aside money for renewable energy for the future, it does not reduce L.A.’s use of coal, the dirtiest, most environmentally damaging fuel we have. The only reduction in fossil fuels would be in the use of natural gas, which, although cleaner than coal, is vastly more expensive and accounts for a much smaller amount of our power generation.

This proposal will also kill jobs and stifle economic activity at the worst possible time. During this crushing economic recession, L.A.’s business leaders have told us emphatically that if they are faced with double-digit increases in electric rates right now, they would have to lay off employees or move some operations outside of L.A. Any jobs created at DWP through this proposal would create an additional huge financial burden on the City now and continue to expand pension costs at DWP in the future.

Moreover, families in the San Fernando Valley who live in a much hotter climate and have larger property sizes will be disproportionately hurt by these rate increases. This will add an excessive burden on families that are already struggling.

Under the claim that it is an emergency, this proposal has been rushed without the sufficient public review that is required for any rate increases under the motion that I introduced in 2004. The City Council asked DWP for information about this proposal in August 2009. But they waited until the end of March and now are trying to rush this past the public by claiming that it is a financial emergency that threatens the City with insolvency if not passed by April 1. The Neighborhood Councils were not given enough time to review the proposal.

This is yet another reason why we need rate-payer transparency, which is why I called for an Inspector General for the DWP. I will continue to fight for efficiency and lower water and electricity rates for our citizens.

Sincerely,

GREIG SMITH
Councilman, Twelfth District