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Angelides Puts Heat on Gov.

July 26, 2006|Ashley Surdin and Marc Lifsher | Times Staff Writers

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides blasted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's energy policy Tuesday, saying it has pushed the state to the brink of a blackout.

"The governor's policy can be summed up in four words: Pray for mild weather," Angelides, the state treasurer, said at a news conference held across the street from a Glendale steam-electric generating plant.

"For three years now, this governor has done nothing to give us a good energy policy that protects our families, our businesses and our economy. In fact, he's been clinging to the old energy deregulation plan put in place by people like Enron and the Bush administration, an energy policy that badly failed California," he said.

In a later conference call with reporters, Angelides asked the governor to declare a state of emergency, which would allow California to mobilize extra resources to deal with heat-related threats to public health. He noted that Stanislaus County in the Central Valley had issued such a declaration.

Though he has not declared an emergency, Schwarzenegger on Monday ordered all state and local government agencies to conserve energy and open cooling centers to provide shelter for people whose homes are too hot. State labor officials issued warnings about hot weather safety and the state Department of Health Services said it was monitoring nursing home conditions.

Schwarzenegger's office quickly fired back at Angelides.

"California's power grid held up this week in large part because Gov. Schwarzenegger pushed utilities to have 15% energy reserves," Matt David, a Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman, said in a statement.

Angelides' effort to jump on the energy issue underscored its political importance. Former Gov. Gray Davis was broadly popular until the 2001 energy crisis snuffed out his prospects, paving the way for the recall in which Schwarzenegger took office. For this governor, the strains on the electrical grid come less than four months before voters decide whether to grant him a second term.

In Glendale, Angelides claimed the governor's administration was not putting enough pressure on the California Energy Commission to procure more megawatts throughout the state. The governor also vetoed legislation that would have helped investor-owned utilities build power plants, Angelides said.

Angelides said that as governor, he would push for more power plants, with or without the help of private utilities and energy companies. If private companies are not interested, he said, he would urge the California Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority to build them.

"We need to have enough power, even if the state has to build the plants itself," Angelides said. Such plants would be financed by bonds, Angelides spokesman Steven Maviglio said.

Alongside Angelides in Glendale was S. David Freeman, the former Los Angeles Department of Water and Power general manager, who criticized the governor's call for conservation.

"To ask people to cut down on their use on the hottest days of that year is a sign of failure," Freeman said.

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