Judge: California's energy crisis 'catastrophic'

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Judge: California's energy crisis 'catastrophic' February 9, 2001 Web posted at: 2:58 a.m. EST (0758 GMT)

In this story:

Grid's manager warns of 'serious impact' on safety

Governor moves to avoid blackouts

'The time has come to take control'

From staff and wire reports

YUBA CITY, California -- Citing an energy crisis of "catastrophic proportions," a federal judge has ordered three major suppliers to sell electricity to California despite the suppliers' worry that two cash-strapped utilities won't pay for it.

The reprieve for California energy regulators came Thursday as the governor announced he would dramatically accelerate power plant construction to try to stave off summer blackouts.

U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell Jr.'s extension of a temporary restraining order he issued Tuesday ensures the suppliers will not pull about 4,000 megawatts off the state's power grid. That's enough to power about 4 million homes a day. "The state of California is confronting an energy crisis of catastrophic proportions," the judge wrote. Allowing the suppliers to cut off the state's utilities "poses an imminent threat of blackouts."

The power grid's manager, the California Independent System Operator, sought the order, warning that the electricity's removal would disrupt the region's power supply so severely that outages would spread beyond California.

Grid's manager warns of 'serious impact' on safety "This would be a serious impact on the safety, health and welfare of not only Californians, but everyone in the Western U.S.," said Jim Detmers, the ISO's managing director of operations.

The order, in effect at least until a February 16 hearing on the case, names Reliant Energy Services Inc., AES Pacific Inc. and Dynegy Power Corp.

Reliant had been under a temporary restraining order issued by the Sacramento judge Tuesday night, shortly before the midnight expiration of a Bush administration directive requiring suppliers to continue selling to California despite utility solvency concerns.

The other two companies had voluntarily committed to keep supplying the ISO pending Thursday's ruling.

Houston-based Reliant, which is responsible for about 9 percent of California's energy, has balked at selling the ISO emergency power to send to Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. It fears it will never be paid by the cash-strapped utilities.

Reliant has asked the state to stand behind the utilities' purchases. Gov. Gray Davis is unwilling to do that because he believes Reliant wants to drive up prices by locking the state into purchases on the costly spot power market, spokesman Steve Maviglio said.

California faced a Stage 3 power alert for a record 24th straight day Thursday. No repeat of the rolling blackouts that darkened large parts of northern and central California for two days last month was expected.

Governor moves to avoid blackouts Earlier on Thursday, Gov. Gray Davis issued a series of executive orders in hopes of avoiding blackouts during the state's summer peak usage period, which is quickly approaching.

Davis announced he will use his emergency authority to increase electrical production within the state by streamlining the process for new power plant facilities to get up and running.

He directed the California Energy Commission to use its emergency procedures to hasten sitings for natural gas-fired power plants, ordered an extension of operating hours for existing power plants and waived cumbersome timelines for retrofits of older plants.

Davis also offered financial bonuses to new plant owners who can get their sites up and running by summer, and he sent a letter to President Bush asking him to direct federal agencies to expedite issue of any federal permits required for operation.

'The time has come to take control' "In my State of the State address, I said that the time has come to take control of our own energy destiny. Well, that time is now," Davis said Thursday.

"My proposals and executive orders today will build our energy supply and maintain our environmental commitment. We will demonstrate that California can cut red tape, build more power and protect the environment."

Davis also directed the California Air Resources Board to establish a State Emissions Offset Bank to allow power producers to pay "mitigation fees" to compensate for increased operations. These fees would be used to maintain state and federal air quality standards by cleaning up facilities that pollute air, such as older power plants and diesel machinery.

The governor's executive orders provide for an additional 500 megawatts of electricity production by July of 2002, and another 20,000 by the summer of 2004 -- all of which would generate from new power plants. One megawatt is enough to power 1,000 homes.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 09, 2001


Sorry folks,

Just another California story. But then again it is not just about California anymore. The events in California will be effecting the entire U.S.for many years to come.

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 09, 2001.

Martin- absolutely. Anyone who believes that this is "only" a California story is being shortsighted. Can see this happening in many sectors- like food. Farmers being told "you must produce the same amount of the crop you did last year" despite exhorbitant and prohibitive fuel and fertilizer prices- because failure to do so "is a public health issue". What about truckers- they "must" truck the food/supplies/whatever, even at a net loss, because failure to do so will "hurt the public interest". Who's going to pay the piper? Linda

-- Linda (gravesfarm@madbbs.com), February 09, 2001.

Here is another problem around the country. The events in California are making other states rethink there policies on this subject.


WASHINGTON -- Alarmed by California's power crisis and what it could mean for electrical grids across the country, officials in state after state are flipping the off switch - at least temporarily - on their own deregulation plans.

The backlash will slow, by several years at least, the transition from state-regulated to free-market electrical systems, short- circuiting a public policy trend that seemed almost unstoppable not long ago.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 09, 2001.

URL for above for the rest of the article


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 09, 2001.

"(Davis)directed the California Energy Commission to use its emergency procedures to hasten sitings for natural gas-fired power plants, ordered an extension of operating hours for existing power plants and waived cumbersome timelines for retrofits of older plants."

Questions: 1)How much is the gas gonna cost? 2)Where is he gonna get it? (Maybe questions should be in reverse order, sorry).

Maybe we should revisit alternative energy sources such as Municipal Solid Waste Incenerators which can be made to run cleaner than existing non-controlled gas plants, if they have Maximum Available Control Technology (MACT) pollution control devices installed for NOx, SOx, Particulate matter, and Ash treatment to prevent the residue from leaching of heavy metal into ground water, etc. . ..

This technology is widespread in other parts of the world where the space for new landfills no longer exists. Burning the waste reduces this volume of the "fuel" by about 90% and the mass by about 70% and you get steam to run a tubine generator.

Oh,yea I forgot -- NIMBY. Trash trucks make too much noise.

-- PHO (owennos@bigfoot.com), February 09, 2001.

Questions to Gov. Davis.

How much we paying for Electricity?

Sorry, thats a secret.

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 09, 2001.

Trash incinerators make garbage orders of magnitude more toxic.

Imagine hot water poured over coffee beans. Water poured over whole beans will make weak coffee. Grinding those beans into dust will make strong coffee.

Trash incinerators convert garbage into ash and smog -- both of which are far more toxic than the original trash.

Recycled aluminum takes about five percent of the energy to make virgin aluminum. That is the type of direction to go, not burning plastic, paint, paper and other products that synthesize tens of thousands of new chemicals in the combustion process - regardless of how many scrubbers are on the stack.

see www.rachel.org and www.ilsr.org for more

-- mark (mrobinowitz@igc.org), February 10, 2001.

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