The new chair of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee says his top priorities are stabilizing the energy market and ensuring that there is enough power to supply the state's homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses next summer and into the future. The resources need to be "clean, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective," according to Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Irvine). He added that the California Public Utilities Commission's long-term procurement decision may be a big step toward fixing the problem. Levine is not fazed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's propensity to work around the Legislature and promote his energy policy through the CPUC. Regardless, he said, "We are elected officials and are responsible for representing our constituents." The relative newcomer, considered a trusted ally of Speaker Fabian N??ez, is considered proconsumer and proenvironment. However, Levine does not reject deregulation. He has no doubts that California's deregulation scheme was a dismal failure but said that did not mean "it was a permanent failure." Once the market stabilizes, the state should follow other deregulation models, such as that of England, and take a few years to move into an unregulated market, he said. At the top of his to-do list is authoring legislation that would advance the 20 percent renewables portfolio standard from 2017 to 2010 and would open the door to green power trades. The measure would be very similar to former senator Byron Sher's SB 1478, vetoed by the governor a few months ago. At this point, Levine does not foresee pushing a 33 percent green power goal in the legislation or trying to force the 20 percent renewables mandate on public power agencies. Levine also supports direct access as long as small ratepayers are not unfairly burdened with the remaining Department of Water Resources contracts. The real issue for large energy consumers, Levine said, is not so much being able to make their own power deals, but getting the cheapest power. At the same time, he doubts small ratepayers-residential and small business-really care about being able to choose who supplies their power, given that the costs involved would not be very significant. As proof, he pointed to the telecommunications business and the dearth of switching by smaller customers. "Unless it is a huge monthly expenditure, people don't pay much attention," he said. As far as Levine is concerned, coal is a "has-been" given the far cleaner alternatives. He doesn't buy into the promotions of clean coal without clear proof that it is not an oxymoron. At the same time, he is a strong supporter of liquefied natural gas. "I love it," he said. Levine insisted it could solve a lot of the state's energy problems and rejected concerns about the risks associated with LNG facilities. "The risks are nowhere near what people say they are," he maintained. For example, he said, the proposed LNG facility in Long Beach would reside in an industrial area filled with oil refineries that are far more volatile. In spite of this, he added that ultimately the decision is in the hands of local and state entities. Levine likes nuclear plants even less than coal-fired units. "There are too many risks," he said, adding that long-term storage of spent fuel rods and other radioactive parts remains a huge unresolved problem. As for his overriding goal as chair of the committee, foremost in his mind are "survival and self-preservation," he quipped.