SCAQMD Draft Energy Policy Needs Community Input

South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has produced a Draft Energy Policy which proposes to integrate air quality, energy security and climate change issues in a “holistic manner.”  Although presented as merely building upon previous Board actions and as a complement to existing initiatives, the proposed energy policy directed the District to promote and advocate specific energy policies and specific technologies. For a policy with such widespread significance and seemingly beyond the core mission of the SCAQMD, the insufficient study or review with impacted parties raised significant concern with stakeholders throughout the Basin.

Introduced in late April, the policy was initially proposed to be submitted to the SCAQMD Board at their May 19 Board Retreat.  With a growing coalition of stakeholders expressing concern about the speed and process at which the policy was being enacted, the policy was pulled from the May meeting and limited community meetings were conducted.  The staff report was then routed through the Stationary Source Committee, which recently met on June 17 to a standing room only crowd.

Of the 12 organizations who gave brief comments, only the Public Solar Power Coalition expressed support of the policy. The other organizations, which included organizations as varied as FuturePorts to the IBEW, expressed concern with the policy and the effort to move it forward without conducting a comprehensive outreach program.

OCBC’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Kate Klimow, was the first to address the Committee members and initiated the steady drumbeat of calls to defer consideration of the draft Energy Policy until further economic study has been completed, and in the meantime, commence a work group to develop a truly coordinated approach and collaborative plan to achieve clean air with clean, reliable and affordable energy and a healthy economy.

Not only is the agency prematurely presenting the proposal to their Board without regard for their own internal processes – the plans they are calling for have been developed without consideration for the full range of community impacts, such as infrastructure needs, consumer demand, energy affordability, reliability, cost, and security.  Furthermore, the policy also fails to consider the recent groundbreaking studies conducted by Fueling California on both the nature of California’s fuel sources as well as the Projected Outlook for Next Generation and Alternative Transportation Fuels in California 2010 – 2030.

A recently released study by George Mason University ranks California 48th based on its tax and regulatory environment.  It was ranked 49th in business friendliness (a measure of regulations) in a CNBC Survey, and was ranked dead last by Chief Executive magazine as a place to do business. This is the framework in which any new policy must be judged and certainly one that has not even taken into account the economic impacts to the community.

This is further supported under SCAG’s unanimously adopted Southern California Economic Recovery & Job Creation Strategy, developed in coordination with key stakeholders from throughout the basin.

The SCAQMD was scheduled to adopt the policy at their July 8 meeting, however the Stationary Source Committee recommended a delay until September to give staff more time to respond to the issues raised at the Committee meeting.  Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson was the leading Committee member to call for the delay and encourage an economic analysis of the policy. As he stated, it isn’t in any one’s interest to create good air quality by driving business to another state.

A working group of affected stakeholders is to be established to provide additional information to the District as it works to refine the policy. The specifics of effort have not yet been defined. OCBC will continue to work with regional stakeholders to ensure business and transportation concerns are adequately represented on the working group.  For more information, contact Kate Klimow, Vice President of Government Affairs.

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