March 2, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Why Consumers Won’t Get Much Of Dynergy’s Millions:

There was applause from environmentalists when Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Public Utilities Commission late last month accepted a $120 million settlement from NRG Energy, Inc., for the part it and the bankrupt former electric generator Dynegy, Inc., played in the power crisis that afflicted California 11 years ago.

To be paid over four years, that settlement will see NRG spend 80 percent of the money on a network of electric car charging stations along major highways and in the state’s biggest cities. Only 20 percent will go to consumers in the form of very small rate reductions.

Few questioned any of the deal, even though electric customers bilked during the crisis will get mere pennies back for this part of the many dollars the cheating Dynegy stole from them. (New Jersey-based NRG six years ago bought out Dynegy’s interest in two California power plants. Dynegy paid consumers $281 million in a previous settlement.)

Despite numerous attempts to get his explanation, Brown has yet to offer a rationale for spending most of the money on charging stations rather than refunding it to myriad cheated customers. The best his office has offered was this from spokesman Evan Westrup: “$100 million to expand the state’s clean energy infrastructure is good news for all Californians.”

Altogether, Dynegy caused an estimated 10 percent of the $9 billion in overcharges California electric customers paid during the crunch because of illegal market manipulations by Enron, Dynegy, Reliant Energy, Williams Energy, Mirant and other firms, most of them based in Texas. Including this settlement, it has paid back about $400 million.

So Brown endorses a deal that gets consumers little, while leaving Dynegy’s successor the owner of 200 full-service charging stations. Another 1,000 smaller charging facilities will go into commercial buildings and apartment or condominium complexes.

The best explanation of why this money will go to electric car chargers comes from Frank Lindh, the utility commission’s general counsel. In a telephone interview, he said refusing this settlement would risk eight more years of legal wrangling, with the possibility Californians could end up with nothing.

The chargers, he said, are what NRG offered, “and I think it’s the best we can do here.” For sure, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – which would hear any further case – has never approved a full refund of illegal gains by any electric generating company.

Meanwhile, the new chargers will likely spur more use of electric cars in California. The question is whether the PUC should have pressed its refund demands or accepted this kind of subsidy for a new sort of infrastructure. No one ever subsidized America’s gigantic network of gasoline stations. No similar largesse is yet going to anyone building hydrogen fueling stations for what many believe will be a coming generation of H2-powered cars and trucks.

It’s certainly possible to see this use of money as a form of theft. In virtually any other settlement for corporate wrongdoing, most of it would go back to those who were cheated. Residential ratepayers saw their monthly electric bills rise by an average of more than $10 per month during and after the crisis of 2000 and 2001, when then-Gov. Gray Davis was essentially blackmailed into accepting electric power supply deals at exorbitant prices rather than risk years of blackouts and brownouts. That was what the crooked generating companies threatened in their heyday, before many of their executives were later convicted for their complex cheating.

It’s also true that today’s limited number of electric car and plug-in hybrid models sell for many thousands of dollars more than comparable gasoline-powered cars. So cheated ratepayers will now subsidize the wealthy who can afford those cars.

Complained Steve Frank, the former head of the conservative California Republican Assembly and a persistent Brown critic, “(Brown) has stolen $100 million belonging to the people of California to buy a wasteful, unneeded personal toy… Brown has decided to misuse our money for his bad dream policies.”

Actually, Brown didn’t arrange the NRG/Dynegy settlement, even if he did announce it in the same press release as his executive order demanding that state officials work with private companies to get 1.5 million electric cars on the road by 2025. The PUC did that.

But Brown appointees, like Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, hailed the action. “This…will clean our air, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on imported oil,” she said. Added PUC Commissioner Mike Florio, a former consumer advocate, “This creative deal…propels us down the road to a clean transportation future…”

But the people who were cheated will not be repaid by this settlement. The bottom line is that no one will ever know if Lindh and the PUC are correct about this being the best that could be done.

in News
Related Posts

‘Safe Camping’ at the VA is Open To All Homeless Veterans

March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

The “safe camping” program is geared toward getting homeless Veterans off the streets and provides a way to transition from homelessness to...

Santa Monica Police Warn of Thieves Targeting Seniors Near Palisades Park

March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

Two elderly woman robbed along Ocean Avenue recently By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police are investigating two thefts targeting senior...

Santa Monica’s Zero Emissions Delivery Zone Pilot Has Begun: Santa Monica Beat – March, 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Santa Monica’s Zero Emissions Delivery Zone Pilot Has Begun * City...

Video: Closing Down Westside Oil Field?

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Officials are discussing closing a Westside oil field sitting on hundreds of acres of prime coastal land. Learn more in...

Pico Neighborhood Affordable Housing Project Breaks Ground

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Over 70 units of affordable housing come to area near Woodlawn Cemetery By Sam Catanzaro A 70-unit-plus affordable housing development...

Large Properties Drive-up Santa Monica Home Sales Amid Pandemic

February 26, 2021

February 26, 2021

Annual report shows single-family home sales rising By Sam Catanzaro Interest in large properties with five-bedrooms or more helped drive-up...

Santa Monica Police Arrest Parolee for Setting Stolen Car on Fire

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

Alex Omar Aguirre arrested by Santa Monica Police Department By Sam Catanzaro A Santa Monica resident this week watched as...

Video: Closing Streets to Allow for More Outdoor Dining?

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

A drunk driver recently crashed into a Santa Monica outdoor dining area, bringing attention to a proposal that would close...

Dozens of Santa Monica Restaurants to Participate in dineL.A.

February 25, 2021

February 25, 2021

First ‘spring’ season of culinary event to begin first week in March By Kerry Slater Dozens of Santa Monica restaurants...

Video: Free LA Metro Rides Could Begin Soon

February 24, 2021

February 24, 2021

LA Metro could begin offering fare-less rides as early as next year as part of a $300+ million program. Learn...

That New Car Smell: Keep it Fresh

February 24, 2021

February 24, 2021

If ladies can have a special relationship with a new pair of shoes, just imagine our connection with a brand...

Danny Trejo’s Tacos Coming to Santa Monica

February 24, 2021

February 24, 2021

Popular restaurant owned by legendary actor coming near Promenade By Kerry Slater Legendary actor Danny Trejo is bringing his popular...

Violent Crime Declining in Santa Monica: Santa Monica Beat – February, 22, 2021

February 22, 2021

February 22, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Violent Crime Declining in Santa Monica * Santa Monica Animal Shelter...

Santa Monica Convicted Felon Indicted for Multiple Firearms Charges After Shooting into Neighbor’s Yard

February 22, 2021

February 22, 2021

Jason Walsh faces federal prison time for January 9 incident By Sam Catanzaro A Santa Monica man previously convicted for...