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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

AB 976: RoboCorp Attack on Local Power Inc.?

California’s statewide International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has found a Los Angeles-based junior Assembly Member to file legislation, to be heard in the California Assembly this month, that would create a new crime in California – a crime that regulates what I do for a living. My small California-based company, Local Power Inc., is a longtime consultant to the city of San Francisco as well as Sonoma County helping prepare these communities to implement Community Choice (CCA). After a dozen unpaid years pushing for CCA in Marin County, we opted not to try to be a consultant, and instead bid to actually provide power and localize energy production. With broad stroke language, AB976 would appear make it illegal for my company to help these cities implement their CCA programs.

Government consulting is a competitive business with much stricter fairness and transparency than a monopoly like PG&E offers. We competed against Shell and lost for Marin’s business - Local Power Works lost, and Shell got to eat PG&E’s lunch. That is American competition no? I raised the money to pay for organizing our consortium of local companies and spent $150K to write Local Power Works' bid. AB976 would police my clients for doing business with us and prevent us from working if our programs are successfully implemented. Hm?

Local Power Inc. is not criminal for creating CCA and forcing competition on PG&E. To PG&E or the IBEW or the bill's sponsor, competition is criminal - and small companies like Local Power Inc. are sleazy consultants trying to fleece local governments in California. PG&E is free to write bills like AB976 or Prop 16 and pay to get them passed - like proposing a constitutional amendment to preempt local governments doing CCA, or a law to criminalize PG&E's competitors. It is PG&E that should be policed, not local governments or Local Power Inc..

LPI is not criminal for writing San Francisco’s solar bond authority and seeding the solar finance movement in America. PG&E does have issues that call for policing – it runs a political machine that is hostile to the green power efforts of communities in Northern California.  Enron was no better, but PG&E has become comparable in its banality - its use of the 'good government' ruse to harm the public. Peter Darbee didn’t resign last month for nothing. But does America have a political memory? Now with Assembly Member Hall's bill, the IBEW would banish memory itself  – making it illegal to work for a decade or more for a government to design and implement CCA. This bill would amount to criminalizing the CCA movement in California.

AB976 would invent a new crime just for us.  I live in the Bay Area living in Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, San Francisco, and Marin. I work for these local governments because this is where I live - part of our true interest in localism. Is this a crime? Local Power has spent thirteen years in San Francisco preparing its H Bond and CCA Program, Marin County thirteen years too, and Sonoma County six years. Funny that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers would come for my job!  Would they like similar restrictions on PG&E, a mega-corporation? Unions – against local governments and for monopolies? Our medieval fathers would weep.

I am not accustomed to playing the special interest, so I suppose the IBEW, (was PG&E behind this? I do not know) is teaching me a lesson for being such as high-handed activist: it appears that my small business, extant for 15 years but still very small, is being branded as a potential criminal. Goliath calls David bully – when in fact the real bully has a black eye for being playing RoboCorp with California governments less than a year ago.

The bill is now in third reading after passing unanimously out of committee. Assembly Member Hall is sponsor, and it has passed the Assembly Appropriations committee.  The bill would make it a crime for Local Power Inc. (localpower.com) to help cities implement the plans we are helping them make for large-scale energy localization – through “CCA” – Community Choice Aggregation. PG&E has been fighting the right of communities to purchase their power from competitive suppliers. They have spent hundreds of millions on Public Relations to fight Community Choice in the Bay Area ($46M on Prop 16 in 2010), as much on lawyering and lobbying, and have lost at the voting booths. Whereas Prop 16 required supermajority support for a municipality to even investigate CCA, AB976 would now propose to criminalize the companies that work for CCAs: in effect, to police local governments, which are already subject to Brown Act and Sunshine Act laws.
The bill says any consultant performing work for a CCA in preparation for implementation of a local energy service, would be classified as criminal for helping the same government implement that program.
Last year PG&E failed in its floating of Proposition 16.  They put it forward as a good government bill to prevent government abuse, but it was recognized for what it was: corporate attack on the government’s ability to govern where it has any impact on PG&E’s quasi-monopoly revenues. The voters rejected Prop 16. Assembly member Hall’s bill, AB 976, is a test of the legislature’s stupidity – would it accept the proposal of a corporate market abuser (CEO Peter Darbee just got fired for what he did on Prop 16) as if to prevent CCAs from being criminal? Failing to win public approval of the state to police local governments who dare implement the 2002 CCA law, PG&E’s handlers now shuffle forward a bill and ask the legislature to criminalize the firms that work with local governments
PG&E has no such requirements -  energy monopolies are quietly left out of AB976. PG&E can continue to consult the local governments in its service territory on any energy of energy efficiency programs they have or want to have (witness PG&E’s foray into Zero Energy Cities)  but also control the electricity services that are physically provided for all of Northern California: and have controlled them for a century.
What is worse, unlike municipalities, which are elected and transparent, California’s electricity monopolies have closed meetings and are Wall Street oriented. Who is policing whom?  Corporations over local government. Sounds like globalization to you?

1 comment:

Paul Elmore said...

Separating the planning and the implementation functions is like tearing the head from the body -- planning is needed throughout an implementation, or else the doing becomes robotic. I speak as a program evaluator for 10 years who watched many a plan go astray.

Paul Elmore, PhD

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