Speaking Truth To The Los Angeles Department Of Water And Power

June 4 2011 LADWP meeting.jpg

A couple hundred people spend their Saturday morning last week at a meeting, organized and chaired by Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, with Commissioners and staff of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).  The meeting was called to allow the public to hear LADWP’s presentation about its financial future, and to offer public comment.  As is so often the case, LADWP’s presentation, and the colorful Powerpoint presentation that accompanied it, were long on happy talk and short on specifics.

By far the best public comment was from a student who looked to be about 12 years old.  Here he is at the podium:


His message was very clear and straightforward:  LADWP needs to stop buying out-of-state power generated from dirty, polluting coal plants.  He got a huge ovation from the crowd. 

Another issue that Liz Crosson of Santa Monica Baykeeper and I addressed was LADWP’s deplorable record of on the California’s once-through cooling regulation.  My colleague Noah Long described the problem here.  In short, there are a number of coastal powerplants that need to stop sucking in huge amounts of ocean water for cooling, and then discharging heated water back out to sea.  After a five-year multi-stakeholder process, the California State Water Board issued regulations giving California utilities, including LADWP, a timeline to end this harmful practice.  The ink had hardly dried on the regulations before LADWP was trying to sabotage them in order to give itself virtually unlimited time to comply.  LADWP recently submitted a once-through cooling compliance plan to the State Water Board which was beautifully produced but, again, very light on substance.  Word in Sacramento is that LADWP’s political supporters have a “spot bill” ready to overturn the State Water Board’s once-through cooling regulations if LADWP does not get a free pass to ignore them.

Given this context, it was amusing, at best, to see the slide on Saturday from LADWP’s Powerpoint that read:  “We are totally eliminating ocean water cooling at our costal power plants to protect marine habitats.”  During my (60 second) remarks, I pointed out that this slide didn’t say when LADWP would eliminate once-through cooling, and I challenged the LADWP Commissioners present to commit to following the law as written.  They looked blank.  Councilwoman Perry then said she would do me one better and introduce a motion called for a hearing on LADWP’s practices on the once-through cooling issue, and asked me to work with the City’s Legislative Analyst to get this done. 

I will.  The public – LADWP’s ratepayers – needs to know what its agency is doing to subvert California law while pretending to honor it.  Stay tuned for future reports.