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Schwarzenegger Turns Down 2 Energy Bills

September 26, 2004|Marc Lifsher | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made good Saturday on a threat to veto this year's highest-profile energy bill, saying it would create a "redundant and burdensome process" that favors "monopoly utilities."

The bill, AB-2006 by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), would have allowed investor-owned utilities such as Southern California Edison Co. to build their own power plants and sign long-term contracts with private generating companies for electricity.

Proponents of the bill denounced the governor for kowtowing to independent generators such as San Jose-based Calpine Corp. that allegedly want to obtain a larger share of the electricity market at the expense of residential and small business ratepayers.

" ... The power pirates that sided with the governor in opposition to this bill remain firmly in control of our energy future," Nunez said in a statement released by his office.

In a second, more surprising, energy veto, the governor rejected a less controversial bill that would have pushed up the deadline by seven years to 2010 for requiring that at least 20% of the state's energy come from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. Schwarzenegger had made such a pledge a key part of his environmental action platform during his fall 2003 election campaign.

The renewable power legislation, SB-1478 by Sen. Byron Sher (D-Stanford), would have created California's first market for companies to buy and sell certificates that could be credited toward satisfying the 20% renewable energy requirement.

In his veto message, the governor said the Sher bill, though laudable in its intent, imposed "several onerous restrictions" on the proposed market for selling renewable energy credits. The bill exempted municipal generators such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and did not allow for trading on a secondary market with participation by out-of-state players, said Julie Blunden, director of the Alliance for Retail Choice, an Oakland-based group of energy brokers that favored the veto.

Proponents of the Sher bill accused the governor and his energy staff of concocting last-minute squabbles about an environmentally sound idea that had passed both houses of the Legislature with little opposition and on strong bipartisan votes.

"This was a step forward ... There's nothing in this bill that should have caused it to be vetoed," said V. John White, legislative director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology in Sacramento.

Though he jettisoned both bills, the governor stressed that he was committed to fostering a "reliable, competitively priced electricity" market that relies heavily on clean, nonfossil energy supplies. His still-evolving energy policy is focused on making sure that utilities line up sufficient sources of power to avoid the rolling blackouts that swept the state in 2001.

Schwarzenegger contends that the appointed members of the California Public Utilities Commission already are implementing most of the provisions contained in the Nunez bill.

In other action Saturday, the governor vetoed three labor bills sponsored by Democrats that would have required longer rest periods for hotel workers, increased civil penalties for employers who fail to maintain safe exits for their workers and increased record-keeping requirements for janitorial firms.

He also signed a bill, AB-2719, that would give public access to state archive records at least 75 years old even if exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.

And he signed AB-1910 by Assemblyman Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach), which sets rules for inheritance for children who are artificially conceived after a parent's death.

Times staff writer Nancy Vogel contributed to this report.

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