The <i>Grid Vine</i>

By Published On: April 3, 2004

Dr. Snarky Sparks has been fighting a bad case of spring fever, but the cooler weather and pollen?aahhh CHOO; excuse me, please?drove her back into her examining room, where she heard quite a bit from scratchy and raspy deep throats. For starters, the doctor was stunned, yes, quite, that CPUC prez Michael Peevey slammed his staff?s report released a couple of weeks ago because it didn?t enthusiastically embrace a core-noncore market strategy. Some say he doth protest too much, and so much so that he shocked the CPUC and California Energy Commission worker bees who didn?t see it coming. Makes you wonder whether Mr. Peevey is clarifying whose team he is on?and it looks quite a lot like Arnold?s. While Dr. Snarky isn?t sure whether the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee consultant Paul Donahue got a serious bout of spring fever, it looks like he?s been spending more time outside the Capitol. Donahue was the energy committee consultant when the loquacious former Assemblymember Rod Wright ran the show and managed to remain on board well after Rod departed. However, for the last several weeks, Donahue has been seldom seen at the Capitol because the chair made it known she wanted someone else to fill the spot. Snarky has no qualms with chair Sarah Reyes deciding who she wants as head consultant, as each new chair gets to clean the slate. But she can?t figure out why Donahue?s voice mail is still connected although he isn?t. After clearing her nasal cavities and throat of pollen, Dr. Snarky found herself humming almost on key that old tune about all the stars on Hollywood Blvd. Seems I was inspired by the possibility of Crocodile Dundee speaking on behalf of the Australian firm BHP Billiton?s proposed LNG terminal off the coast of Malibu. Well, wasn?t I disappointed. No crocs and no Dundee. In his place was Ed Begley, Jr., one Hollywood?s prominent environmentalists, who favors Tees and open plaid shirts as he mingles at ease among the suits. Sigh. Through an emissary who spoke at an environmental analysis scoping session, Begley recently voiced support for the company?s proposed Cabrillo Port terminal, which would float 14 miles off the coast of the Ventura?Los Angeles County line. Begley said that the project?s offshore location should allay safety concerns and that the company has been careful to minimize the environmental impacts of the proposed terminal. Most important, Begley added, is that California needs an adequate supply of natural gas to attain healthful air. That may be so, but his stance signals a split among the enviros over LNG. The mainstream environmental groups seem to support LNG and may face off with their grassroots local counterparts, who are allergic to terminal projects. Then again, some people just love the smell of fossil fuel in the morning. That might be what California Energy Commission member James Boyd and his spouse Western States Petroleum Association chief of staff Catherine Reheis-Boyd might breathe in over their morning coffee. Boyd, who sits on the CEC?s natural gas committee and the state Natural Gas Working Group, late last year backed the state?s integrated energy policy report, which calls for ?coordinate[d] permit reviews? to ?facilitate LNG facilities.? At least one WSPA member, ChevronTexaco, has proposed an LNG terminal along the California coast, and another, Marathon Oil, only recently dropped a bid to build one just south of the border near Tijuana, which would have needed pipelines in California to get its gas to users. When it comes to petroleum, commissioner Boyd has backed centralizing permit authority for new refinery, marine terminal, storage, and pipeline projects under the commission?a proposal recommended by WSPA. It would severely restrict local power over land use and limit the role of local air districts, water boards, and other environmental agencies. Boyd and Reheis-Boyd married two years ago. At the time, both sought legal advice on how to avoid conflict of interest, according to their spokespeople. Commissioner Boyd said he has ?built a firewall? to prevent conflicts and besides has a long public record of supporting reduced dependence on oil and greater use of renewable energy. The good Dr. Snarky remembers that old saw about what?s good for General Motors being good for America. Just substitute a few words??oil and gas, California…” Meanwhile, in downtown L.A., Dr. Snarky got wind?cough, cough?that the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power believes there?s a shortage of qualified hired guns to help out with its public financing needs at the Intermountain Power Project coal plant in Utah. Seems the department has to rely on Fulbright & Jaworski, the same law firm that is representing Coral Energy Services, which the department has sued for conspiring to manipulate natural gas prices. To use the firm, the department had to waive any current or potential conflicts of interest. I know it?s months before trick or treat, but I had to ask you if you?d consider buying a haunted house or business digs. Apparently, the answer is yes for ChevronTexaco, which put down big bucks for the defunct Enron?s 40-story steel and glass tower in downtown Houston. ChevronTexaco did point out that Ken Lay?s ghost doesn?t haunt the place because he never had a suite there. The oil company plans to move nearly 4,000 of its employees by the end of this year. Snarky wonders how many of them may need therapy because of anxiety about trading ghosts. While we?re on the subject of bad trades: Although Ken Lay remains free, a Dynegy executive accused of illegally inflating the company?s and the market?s liquidity was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison last week. Jamie Olis, 38, was convicted at the end of last year of many frauds?from securities to wire fraud?for his part in ?project Alpha.? Dynegy?s attempted merger with Enron after the latter went down in flames also sent the company?s stock on an?ahCHOO?noseward dive.

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