California Senate defeats bill that would hand over electric grid to Trump administration

A coalition of environmental and consumer groups held a press conference against AB 813 at the State Capitol in Sacramento on August 15. Photo by Dan Bacher. |  

June 2, 2018 |

On Friday night, the California Senate defeated a regional grid proposal, AB 813 (Holden), that would have ceded California’s control over its electric grid to a regional agency controlled by federal regulators under the Trump administration.

Food & Water Watch, Consumer Watchdog and over 100 environmental, consumer, community, and labor organizations waged the successful campaign in opposition to AB 813.  

"We commend the California Senate and President Pro Tem Atkins for protecting California's taxpayers and clean energy future by defeating AB 813,” said  Adam Scow, California director, Food & Water Watch, in a statement. “Californians suffered greatly from the electricity deregulation of the 1990s and are still paying the costs of excessive power plants and energy speculation today.”

“The Senate leadership was wise to not subject California to another deregulation scheme that would have empowered the Trump administration to stick California with more coal and fracked gas. California remains in control of its energy destiny and may now proceed with getting to 100% renewable energy without outside interference,” Scow stated.

The text and history of the bill are available here:

Toni Atkins, Senate President pro Tempore, said the regional power grid bill AB 813 "will not be moved to the Senate Floor for a vote this year. We will continue this important discussion next year."

Proponents of the legislation, including the Environmental Defense Fund and NRDC, said they were disappointed by the failure of the Legislature to pass AB 813, noting that the bill would have expanded California’s electric grid and integrated it with the transmission systems of neighboring states, such as Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada.

“AB 813 was a missed opportunity for western states to modernize the grid and promote new clean energy investments,” said Lauren Navarro, Senior Policy Manager for California Clean Energy, Environmental Defense Fund. 

“While we are disappointed AB 813 didn’t pass, we remain committed to supporting the state’s efforts to integrate more renewables and removing barriers to regional energy trading,” continued Navarro. “The world looks to California for clean energy leadership and we remain dedicated to encouraging the state to lead by example.” 

On August 15, a press conference and rally on the south steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento Wednesday featured actors playing Governor Jerry Brown and President Donald Trump laying together in a bed full of oil and coal in front of a large banner that proclaimed, “Jerry Brown: Don’t Submit to Trump, No More Coal, No More Drilling.”

The skit, accompanied by speeches from representatives of a coalition of environmental and consumer groups, underlined the threat of a Trump takeover of the California electricity grid by means of AB 813. Speakers also voiced their opposition to Trump’s plans to frack and drill California, both offshore and onshore.

Speakers from Food & Water Watch, Consumer Watchdog, Mothers Out Front, Rootskeeper, Greenpower, and the California Alliance for Community Energy challenged Brown to drop his support for AB 813: 

Liza Tucker, Consumer Advocate for Consumer Watchdog, said creating a regional western power market out of California’s grid, now under the control of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), “means coal, natural gas and oil-friendly Trump appointees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be in charge of a regional power market under which California would fall.”

“These appointees include a former executive for billionaire investor Warren Buffett who wants to extend the lives of his western coal plants by selling dirty power into our market, a Keystone Pipeline supporter who pushed for pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, and a top corporate lawyer who represented Wall Street firms and oil companies before FERC, the agency he now chairs,”said Tucker.

Adelita Serena of Woodland, one of the participants in the rally and press conference, emphasized what is at stake if the Legislature passes AB 813.

“I’m here for our children’s future,” said Serena, a member of Mothers Out Front. “As a mother, I’m concerned about the increasing risk to our kids if AB 813 passes through the Legislature. This bill would put the control of California’s electricity grid into the hands of the Trump administration and California would be at great risk.

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