SACRAMENTO — State energy officials are scrambling to fill a large hole in California electricity supplies now that the San Onofre nuclear plant has been permanently closed by Southern California Edison Co.
It's not just an energy problem; it could also become a political hot potato. Power blackouts helped fuel the recall of Gov. Gray Davis a decade ago, and Gov. Jerry Brown may be paying close attention as a result.
California Energy Commission Chairman Robert Weisenmiller recalled that Brown cornered him in August and bluntly warned him to "make sure the lights don't go out down there" in Southern California.
A team of state agencies hopes to come up with a Southern California Reliability Plan by the end of next month.
Its job: Figure out how to replace 2,200 megawatts of output from San Onofre, which served 1.4 million Southern California households. The plant near San Clemente stopped operating in January 2012 after defective steam generators released a small amount of radioactive steam.
And that's not all. Planners also need to find an estimated 400 megawatts a year for increased demand and replace as much as 6,200 megawatts generated by power plants scheduled for retirement.
Energy planners have to be ready for a worst-case scenario. "Part of our concern is the weather," Weisenmiller said, "and the other is things going wrong."
Perea's excellent year
The third year in the Legislature is turning out to be a charm for Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, a Fresno Democrat.
The leader of the Assembly's business-friendly "moderate" caucus already has had more than 60% of the 24 bills he introduced this session signed into law, including two headline-grabbers. But a telecom measure that he sponsored was vetoed.
As a "mod," Perea says he tries to balance environmental issues with the need for jobs in the poor agricultural towns of the San Joaquin Valley.
Among his controversial — but ultimately successful — bills was AB 1309, which limits the ability of most athletes with out-of-state professional sports teams to file workers' compensation claims in California. He also wrote AB 327, which gives the Public Utilities Commission authority to rejigger residential electric rates statewide; and AB 8, which extends a number of vehicle-related fees to fund clean-air programs.
Perea is liberal on many social issues, but he steadfastly supports big agriculture on economic issues, said Lloyd Carter, a Fresno water and environmental activist. "He doesn't buck the people who run this valley."
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is running for state controller. The Los Angeles Democrat and former union leader promises to "manage our finances smartly, efficiently and effectively" if he wins the post being vacated by fellow Democrat John Chiang.
In the June primary election, Pérez is expected to face elected Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a Democrat from Alameda and a former state Finance Department official.
The controller pays the state's bills and sits on a number of powerful tax collection and public pension boards.