Katya English, organizer, Environment California, speaking of the need for clean energy now at rally in front of office in Pasadena of Assemblyman Chris Holden, wanting him to pass the bill SB100 which would make the state produce 100 percent renewable energy electricity by 2045. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)
PASADENA >> In a last-ditch effort to revive landmark clean-energy legislation, environmental groups on Thursday rallied outside the offices of Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, who chairs a committee that is holding up the bill and preventing a floor vote in the final hours of the legislative session.
Senate Bill 100, which requires California to deliver 100 percent of its electricity from renewable and carbon-free sources by 2045, had cleared several committees and seemed likely to end up on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
However, this week the ambitious bill ran into a buzz saw of opposition from the state’s top independent utilities, which say buying exclusively solar, wind and other renewable power to keep the lights on in California would unfairly burden their customers with higher electric bills.
In a prepared statement, Holden obliquely referenced opponents who announced their displeasure during the last few days of the session. Holden, who said he was “100 percent committed” to fighting climate change as well as the bill’s “ambitious goals,” agreed to make changes, but apparently they were not sufficient.
“Unfortunately, it is too late in the legislative process to work on any amendments to address concerns of the opposition,” Holden wrote.
The assemblyman said on Thursday afternoon the bill was dead, according to a spokesman. Holden wrote that he will resume work on the legislation next year.
The big three, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison, sent a letter to the bill’s author, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, on Tuesday, saying they jointly oppose the bill. The utilities said they support powering the state’s electrical grid without fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gases which cause climate change but could not support this bill as written.
The utilities instead want the legislator to address issues of an all-renewable grid. The state’s increasing reliance on renewable energy has caused a drop in supply at dusk, forcing state regulators to turn on dirtier power plants at night. The letter also said de Leon’s bill is too much, too soon, and fails to provide them with protection from “unreasonable rate and bill impacts.”
Kathryn Phillips, director of the Sierra Club California, the group’s lobbying arm, said the three utilities have used the same reasoning to fight previous clean-energy legislation.
“High costs? They’ve said that for any bill that forces them to change the way they do business and so far they haven’t been proven correct,” she said.
Nonetheless, the utilities may have scared off some Democrats on the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy from supporting the bill. The bill needs eight committee votes by Friday to allow a floor vote before this year’s legislative session ends at midnight.
The bill would move up California’s target to get 50 percent of electricity from clean energy sources from 2030 to 2026. The mandate would grow to 60 percent renewables by 2030.
The final 40 percent would come from renewables and other sources that do not burn fossil fuel. This last part could include large-scale hydro-power, which environmental groups oppose because of the damage to fish and ecosystems. Nuclear energy would not be available by that time, Phillips predicted.
The Sierra Club, which led the rally Thursday, hopes constituents will bombard their state legislators with phone calls and emails. “They are getting tons of calls from constituents right now,” she said.
On the steps of Holden’s office on North Rosemead Boulevard in east Pasadena, about 30 supporters asked Holden to move the bill out of his committee, shouting slogans and even singing a song about the death of the fossil fuel industry.
“What the legislature is forgetting is the grass roots activists who want this and don’t care about horse trading,” said RL Miller with the group Climate Hawks Vote. Miller delivered a petition signed by 2,000 people to Holden’s office.
The Sierra Club led a coalition of environment and labor groups in 11 Southern California cities during July, August and September, gathering 15,000 signatures. Several Los Angeles City Council members support SB 100.
Phillips said supporters are not giving up and will press legislators in Holden’s committee and the entire Assembly up until the last minute Friday or if they’re still meeting early Saturday morning.
“I’d say the bill is in trouble because we don’t have the votes yet. But that doesn’t mean it is dead. We are not giving up yet,” Phillips said.
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