The California Legislature gave approval on June 29 to an energy plan, AB 205, to purchase electricity from a group of high-polluting natural gas-fired plants on the Southern California coast that were scheduled to be retired in the next few years, and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.
A separate provision of the bill would allow companies building solar farms, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries, as well as electric lines to connect those facilities to the grid, to opt in to an accelerated approval process that doesn’t require sign-off from county governments. Within nine months state officials would be required to conduct environmental reviews and approve or deny those projects. Within another nine months legal challenges to any project approvals would need to be resolved by state courts. The Assembly vote was 57-13, while the Senate approved it 27-8.
Over 435 elected officials, representing half of all Californians, have signed an EOPA California letter to Governor Newsom urging bold action on the climate crisis.
“In the letter we seek an immediate equitable transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy. This bill takes CA directly in the opposite direction. The gas fired plants were set to shut down. Now they remain open because a private company hasn’t been held accountable for their inability to provide power to all their customers all the time,” said Christian Brock, CEO of Elected Officials to Protect America, Air Force Veteran, CA. “Additionally, it’s egregious that local elected officials have been taken out of the time honored process of deciding what companies can operate in their communities. With this bill developers would be able to sidestep local governments limiting environmental reviews for all kinds of energy projects. This bill appears to be helping private business and leaving local governments, and the people they represent, out of the equation.”
AB 205 is prompted as a way to ensure against rolling blackouts. EOPA CA agrees something must be done to prevent them, but this bill must be a short term measure.
A new in-depth modeling from energy analysis firms GridLab and Telos Energy indicates that California can reliably increase its annual share of carbon-free electricity from about 55 percent today to 85 percent by 2030. California’s most recent procurement goals are roughly on target to reach a similar level of year-round clean energy with solar, wind farms and batteries by 2032, along with gigawatts from offshore wind farms, pumped-hydro storage facilities and geothermal power plants. That means the state could retire roughly one-third of the gas power plants it had been expecting to still be online in 2030, beyond those already set to retire over the next few years, while maintaining a level of reliability that could minimize the risk of rolling blackouts like those experienced in the summer of 2020.
A companion policy report from think tank Energy Innovation calls for increasing the amount of offshore wind power to provide energy in the evenings when California’s grid faces the greatest stress, as well as adding more geothermal power plants that can run around the clock to provide valuable grid stability.
“With fires, heatwaves and drought California must keep to the state law that says the electric grid must rid itself of fossil fuel generation by 2045. This legislation, AB 205 will make that goal harder to reach. It takes us in the wrong direction. We should not be suffering from the inadequacies of a private utility company. It’s time to put people over private interests,”. said Heidi Harmon, Former Mayor San Luis Obispo, Senior Public Affairs Director of the Romero Institute’s Let’s Green CA, EOPA California Leadership Council. “California needs to lead America in combating the climate crisis and not add more greenhouse gasses. Today’s outrageous Supreme Court decision that guts the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect Americans with the Clean Air Act makes it abundantly clear that California must lead.”
The legislation included gas-fired power plants in Redondo Beach, Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Oxnard that were supposed to shut down by the end of 2020. These coastal power plants had a process that would suck up large amounts of ocean water killing fish and other marine life. After the August 2020 rolling blackouts, the state water board agreed to let those plants keep operating three more years. Now, AB 205 allows the Department of Water Resources to buy energy from those plants beyond 2023.
“With the world having received a ‘Red Alert’ from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (PCC) for the future of life on earth due to GHG emissions, it is wrong and dangerous to continue on this path to continue our addiction to fossil fuels. We can and must do better for the sake of future generations,” said Carmen Ramirez, Ventura County Supervisor, former Mayor Oxnard EOPA California Leadership Council.
“We feel double-crossed,” said Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand to the LA Times. “These retirement dates were set 12 years ago.”
This past year, every region of the United States has experienced extreme weather with deadly storms, heat waves, floods, drought or wildfires made worse by the climate crisis. The window is closing for significant action to curb fossil fuel pollution that is dangerously heating the planet, with the last seven years being the hottest on record. According to a report from NOAA, in the USA at least 700 people died during 20 extreme weather disasters in 2021, totaling over $20 billion in costs.
Elected Officials to Protect America is a network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting the planet and people. EOPA is committed to solving the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and protecting our lands and waters. EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.
EOPA California Chapter is a statewide, non-partisan network of California elected officials committed to protecting our communities, public health, and climate for all we represent.
June 30, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ramona du Houx,
Elected Officials to Protect America