Feinstein Jumps into Muni Coal Fray

By Published On: November 17, 2006

Senator Dianne Feinstein strongly objected to the city of Burbank’s early renewal of its long-term coal contract with the Intermountain Power Project in Utah. The renewal allows the muni to skirt new California law that sets emissions standards for in- and out-of-state power supplies. “Given Southern California’s existing air quality problems, and the state’s strong leadership role in combating climate change, I was both shocked and disappointed to learn of Burbank’s decision to extend its existing contract for coal-fired power generation from 2027-2044,” Feinstein wrote in a November 14 letter to Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA) president Phyllis Brown. Burbank renewed its deal with Intermountain – although it doesn’t expire for 20 years – in late October, infuriating clean-air advocates (Circuit, Nov. 3, 2006). The city of Pasadena was expected to follow suit, but a decision on the matter was put off this week. During a November 15 meeting, the city council’s Municipal Services Committee declined to put the renewal issue up for a vote. Inking the new deals before the year’s end allows the munis to get around SB 1368 by Senate president pro tem Don Perata (D-Oakland), which requires emissions from all new long-term power deals to be no higher than levels emitted from combined-cycle natural gas projects. The munis, along with those in Los Angeles, Riverside, Anaheim, and Glendale, are members of SCPPA. Last week the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power announced it would not renew its contract with Intermountain before the year’s end and was looking into renewable supplies to help fill the gap (Circuit, Nov. 10, 2006). Feinstein commended LADWP for working to replace the polluting coal supplies and for “its recognition that the existing 20 year contracts assure ample time to replace coal with cleaner resources like energy efficiency and renewable ones.” Calls to SCPPA were not returned before press time. Earlier in the week, the Natural Resources Defense Council sent a letter to the mayors of Pasadena and Riverside protesting consideration of early contract renewals with Intermountain. A similar letter was also sent to Burbank’s mayor, which protests the execution of the contract. The NRDC’s Sheryl Carter in a November 10 letter rejected the premise that having the deals subject to SB 1368 or replacing the power with alternative supplies would cause utility bills to soar. “Unfortunately, the recommendation for contract renewal does not appear to consider the impacts [of future CO2 regulations under AB 32], which could easily run between $17.7 and $35.4 million per year by 2027,” she pointed out. – Elizabeth McCarthy

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