State official to L.A.: Put electricity where boycott is - East Valley Tribune: Politics

State official to L.A.: Put electricity where boycott is

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Posted: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 5:35 pm

A state utility regulator says if Los Angeles officials don’t want to send money to Arizona companies, maybe Arizona should let Angelinos sit in the dark.

And the heat.

In a letter this week to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Gary Pierce chided him and his city council for voting 13-1 to boycott Arizona following the enactment of a tough new law state aimed at illegal immigrants. The council wants to halt travel by city workers to Arizona and to stop spending money on Arizona businesses.

But what has caused a political storm is that the letter suggested that if Villaraigosa is serious about the boycott, Pierce, as a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission would help: He would do what he can to stop the flow of electricity from Arizona power plants to California.

Only thing is, Pierce admitted that if push came to shove, there’s nothing or his colleagues on the commission can legally do about it. Interstate power sales are federally regulated.

And even if they could, Kris Mayes, who chairs the panel, said what Pierce is suggesting is not a war Arizona should start. After all, she pointed out, much of Arizona’s gasoline comes from California.

Pierce, however, defended “calling out” the mayor and its council.

Austin Beutner, general manager of the L.A. Department of Water and Power, said his city gets between 20 and 25 percent of its daily power from Arizona, some from the city’s 5.7 percent ownership of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station and the balance from its 21.2 percent share of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station.

“Nothing in the city’s (boycott) resolution is inconsistent with our continuing to receive power from those LADWP-owned assets,” he said.

Pierce, in his letter to Villaraigosa, said if L.A. is really interested in an economic boycott of Arizona, “I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from any Arizona-based generation.”

“If, however, you find the city council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy,” he continued.

Villaraigosa’s office put out a statement Wednesday saying the mayor “stands strongly behind the city council on this issue, and will not respond to threats from a state which has isolated itself from the America that values freedom, liberty and basic civil rights.”

Pierce told Capitol Media Services that while Villaraigosa might have interpreted the letter as a threat, the commission is powerless either to force Los Angeles to divest its share of Palo Verde or stop Arizona utilities from selling power into California. But he said a message still needed to be sent.

“This is calling them out,” he said.

“Doggone it, they’re calling for a boycott,” Pierce continued. “This is not what neighbors do.”

But he said if Villaraigosa and the council really are convinced of the correctness of their position, they should be intellectually honest about it and really do a boycott.

Pierce compared the city’s actions to a shopper boycotting a grocery store — but then sneaking in the back door because it’s the only place to buy a particular item.

“If you’re committed, do it,” Pierce said. “If you’re not, then find a way to back out of this thing as soon as possible.”

Mayes distanced herself from the letter writing by her fellow Republican commissioner.

“What next?” she asked.

“Is California going to tell Arizona that they’re not going to send us any more gasoline on the Kinder Morgan (interstate) pipeline?” Mayes said. “This has the potential to escalate in a way that is silly.”

Mayes said, though, she understands the mayor’s response to Pierce’s letter.

“I think it’s unclear what he’s suggesting,” she said of her colleague. “And I think there’s an implicit threat in this letter,” which she termed “unfortunate and not constructive.”

Pierce, a former legislator elected to the commission in 2006, is up for re-election this year.

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