By JEFF CLEMETSON | La Mesa Courier
After months of negotiations amongst local cities, La Mesa made it official on Sept. 10 that it will join a regional Joint Powers Authority that will buy and sell clean energy to residents. La Mesa and Chula Vista both cast votes to join the JPA on Sept. 10. Encinitas voted to join on Sept. 11 and San Diego and Imperial Beach on Sept. 17.
“We are really excited about the progress we’ve made and what the future really holds for us as a region to move forward with this JPA and provide cheaper, cleaner, greener energy to our constituency, to the rate payers,” said Lee Friedman, infrastructure policy manager for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office. San Diego is the lead city in the JPA and is paying for most of the implementation costs.
Sophie Wolfram, director of programs for Climate Action Campaign, described the plan as “one of the most progressive in California” and urged the council to pass it without amendments.
“This is a huge moment for La Mesa and our region. This vote … will set the region on a path to clean energy choice, rate relief for working families, good middle class jobs and local clean energy,” she said.
Environmentalists from San Diego 350 and a representative of Sullivan Solar Power also urged the council to approve the JPA agreement without amendments to avoid any delays in passing it.
In order to serve customers by 2021, the JPA agreement needed to be passed by all cities in September due to a state requirement that community choice plans need to file with the Public Utilities Commission a year before implementation. The JPA board needs to meet and finalize details like selecting power suppliers and reviewing and amending the draft plan before voting on a final plan before Dec. 31.
The deadline did not sit well with some environmentalists and some labor groups who wanted to make additional changes to the plan before the City Council voted on it.
“The Sierra Club and IBEW have some significant concerns with some of the language in San Diego’s JPA proposal, especially with regards to environmental, labor and community involvement provisions” said Kyle Rentchler, conservation organizer for San Diego’s Sierra Club chapter. “On the environmental side, the current draft leaves the door open for dirty energy by allowing the procurement of nuclear energy and unbundled renewable energy credits.”
“There are still significant gaps and community concerns in this weak and deficient JPA document that need addressing,” said Michah Mitroski, environmental organizer for the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Specifically, the union found the labor and workforce language “weak and confusing,” the community engagement and transparency provisions “vague and lacking accountability,” the community advisory council language in need of strengthening to include public outreach and to ensure a diverse cross section on interests skill sets and geographic regions, and the strategic plan language in need of strengthening to require workforce benefits, equity and employment standards with regular review.
Friedman said the issues brought up by Sierra Club and the IBEW could be worked out by the JPA board once it is formed and sits down to draft operational procedures for the community choice plan.
Despite that assurance, Council member Colin Parent motioned to amend the plan to include language that addresses some of the Sierra Club and IBEW concerns. That motioned failed 2-3 with only Council member Akilah Weber supporting the motion.
The council then voted unanimously to pass the unamended plan, with direction to La Mesa’s representatives on the JPA board to push for adoption of language to address the issues.
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.