Last month was quite a whirlwind for our local community, especially when it came to the energy sector rates and energy infrastructure projects.
My phone was bombarded with calls and messages regarding controversial battery energy facilities in our community, and from friends, all fuming over the potential havoc that income-based energy rates could wreak on their families.
And what really pushed them over the edge? The audacity of mandating their personal income disclosure and tax documents to some third-party company just to get access to electricity.
The three major California energy companies have submitted requests for rate increases to the California Public Utilities Commission. What sets these requests apart from past requests is that the proposed new rates will be based on a person’s income. The problem they cite is 2022 Budget Trailer Bill Assembly Bill 205.
So here is how this policy predicament occurred. The legislative majority controlled by Democrats and their budget trailer bill AB 205 passed in 2022 and was initially introduced as a “spot bill.” Now, a spot bill is a tactic used to hold a place for an undefined bill that can be filled with any proposal, some of which could not make it through the normal process.
For example, committee hearings to hear the proposals? Not for spot bills. They just skip straight to the floor votes and get a quick path to the governor’s desk. Who needs meaningful discussion, negotiation, or, heaven forbid, due diligence?
I proudly hit my red button and voted “NO” on that bill. But every single legislative Democrat fell in line and voted “YES,” just as their lobbyists and leaders commanded.
Now we have proposed new rates that sting the working class, drive a wedge that punishes families that make money all while silently crushing the dreams of hardworking, blue-collar families.
Fast forward from 2022. Last month my neighbor knocked on my door and left a petition that was being circulated by Acton Takes Action. Turns out it was another alarming consequence intentionally embedded in AB 205.
It empowers energy companies to bypass local government and construct grid infrastructure projects without input or direction from local elected bodies but permitted by the California Energy Commission. It also provides a California Environmental Quality Act exemption. These provisions have become the driving force behind several energy companies currently planning and obtaining permits to build Battery Energy Storage Systems in our community.
We need more energy, but what’s the trade-off? The issue arises from the fact that BESS facilities often rely on ion lithium batteries, notorious for their thermal runaway tendency — an uncontrollable, self-heating state that leads to explosions and uncontainable fires. This tendency may not matter in open-space facilities or large industrial areas but it poses a huge threat for communities in high wildfire zones.
I’ve written about this issue previously, but wanted to provide more insight on the process.
Should BESS facilities be permitted in high wildfire zones it will only be a matter of time before homes, businesses and lives will be lost in devastating fires.
Additionally, middle-class families already struggle with increasingly expensive homeowners and renter’s insurance premiums. The presence of highly flammable energy facilities in wildfire-prone areas only increases the likelihood of insurance cancellations. It is simply unfair for our community to bear the burden and risk associated with certain energy projects, especially those that do not benefit us directly.
The proposed BESS projects in our community will primarily serve as resources for the city of Los Angeles, offering no substantial advantages to our local communities.
AB 205 has proven to be a bill with far-reaching and detrimental consequences. The income-based electricity rates and unregulated infrastructure projects it has enabled not only deepen social divisions but also endanger lives and burden middle-class families.
We need to fix AB 205 and restore fairness, prioritize the safety of our communities, and protect the well-being of all Californians. It is time to rectify the damaging effects of this bill before they escalate further.
One more thing: Spot bills and those never-ending budget trailer bills have got to go. Just recently, the Sacramento majority leadership proudly pushed through a colossal $311 billion budget, and guess what? They’re not done yet. Brace yourselves, because it’s packed with more spot bills like AB 205 that have yet-to-be-known consequences.
Transparency, common sense and due diligence ought to be the minimum we expect and demand.
Suzette Martinez Valladares is Santa Clarita’s former assemblywoman, wife, girl mom, avid DIY’er and a monthly contributor to The Signal’s “Right, Here Right Now,” which appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.