Life-Cycle Evaluation Bill Passes Committee

By Published On: April 23, 2005

If Senator Tom McClintock?s SB 984 becomes law, California could well be the first entity that gauges the environmental and economic impact of all energy sources. That would include the supplies? air pollution and impacts from manufacturing, waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. That bill, and legislation that would place efficient refrigerators in apartments of low-income utility customers, were the only two bills the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee passed without opposition this week?both on 9-0 votes. McClintock?s (R-Thousand Oaks) SB 984 started out as a bill that would have measured the greenhouse gas effects of current generation and favored nuclear power. The senator was persuaded, however, to add all environmental effects of all generation sources into the bill. If it gets through the Legislature, the research?designated for the California Energy Commission?would be a vastly encompassing work that would address the failure to quantify externalities that environmentalists have been complaining about for decades. The second bill?passed after amendments caused all its detractors to withdraw?is SB 769 by Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). It was amended at the last minute to direct the California Public Utilities Commission to have utilities start a refrigerator replacement program for low-income customers in rental property. It would place 50,000 new refrigerators over five years. On the controversial side of the dial are Nell Soto?s (D-Ontario) SB 441 and Robert Dutton?s (R-Rancho Cucamonga) SB 628. Both measures contain a labor predicament. Soto?s bill, which passed on a 7-2 vote, would require the CPUC to make sure that new ?smart? meters are cost-effective. Utilities are ready to spend billions to install new meters that would have time-of-use pricing and communication with the utilities? customer services. Consumer advocates, such as The Utility Reform Network, contend that the money would be ill spent. Unions?whose meter readers could be laid off with such meter installation?also maintain that such meters aren?t justified. ?They could fire all the meter readers and still not save enough to pay for it,? said Marc Joseph, an attorney with Adams Broadwell, representing California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). If new meters are rejected, ?It?s moving backwards in history,? retorted Ed Fong, San Diego Gas & Electric director of electricity measurement and advanced metering infrastructure, voicing the utility argument. The CPUC has been pushing for smart meters since before deregulation. The other labor-related bill, Dutton?s SB 628, failed to pass from committee on a 3-6 vote, but the senators agreed to reconsider it. Sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors of California, the bill would make it more difficult for CURE to intervene in CEC power plant siting cases. The unions have been investigated for allegedly using their intervenor status to wrangle labor contracts out of power plant developers (<i>Circuit</i>, Feb. 4, 2005). The builders? association calls the unions? intervention in Energy Commission siting cases an ?abuse? of the CEC process, and categorizes the unions as not ?a legitimate intervenor like the Sierra Club.? Support for the bill split across party lines. Committee chair Martha Escutia (D-Montebello) queried the sponsors as to whether a unionized workforce is a ?bad thing.? Meanwhile, the CEC ducked taking sides, stressing that its process weeds out ?bogus? claims while giving intervenors a chance to influence policy. Two related bills, SB 1003 by Escutia and SB 426 by Simitian, would have the CEC conduct a ?needs? study for liquefied natural gas terminals and issue LNG construction and operation permits, respectively. The ?needs? evaluation is a way for environmentalists to take a comprehensive, go-slow approach to building LNG terminals. Both passed on 6-0 votes. The California Manufacturers & Technology Association, which heavily supports efforts for new LNG terminals, opposed both bills. It objected to ranking LNG projects according to their economics and environmental effects. Escutia disagreed, saying, ?LNG is a responsible way to go.?

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