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Environmental leaders rally behind DWP general manager

Environmental leaders across the region have begun shoring up support for the top executive at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, saying he is being unfairly blamed for the defeat of a solar energy plan in last month’s election.

David Allgood, Southern California director of the California League of Conservation Voters, began circulating a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa earlier this week, saying H. David Nahai is the right man to carry out the mayor’s environmental vision and “worked as hard as anyone” to win passage of the plan, known as Measure B.

Saying time was “of the essence,” Allgood called on other groups to sign the letter. “We all know his replacement would NOT be an environmentalist -- and without him we’d lose many gains,” he wrote.

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The plea comes nearly two weeks after Brian D’Arcy, who heads the DWP’s 8,000-member employees union, told The Times that Nahai was “not a friend” of Measure B, which would have required DWP employees to install solar panels across the city over the next five years.

D’Arcy, who has also criticized Nahai’s handling of the DWP’s other renewable energy initiatives, had no comment Wednesday. But Villaraigosa spokesman Matt Szabo said Nahai is staying put. “David Nahai is aggressively advancing the mayor’s bold environmental agenda at the Department of Water and Power, and he enjoys the mayor’s full support,” he said.

Allgood did not return a call seeking comment. But in his e-mail, he warned that in the wake of the election, there had been “grumbling” about Nahai’s management skills. “In truth, some of these allegations are warranted because David Nahai is a human being, not a god. (I suspect that only gods need apply at DWP),” he wrote.

So far, representatives of Heal the Bay, Tree People, Global Green USA, the Clean Power Campaign and its sister organization, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, have signed the letter. Some doubted that Nahai faces a threat of ouster, but said they did not want to take any chances.

“If the union leadership tries to make him their victim -- because they are taking their Measure B loss badly -- they may be surprised at the backlash they get from the environmentalists who worked with them on their ill-fated solar effort,” Rhonda Mills, Southern California director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, said in a prepared statement.

Allgood’s group, a political arm of the state’s environmental movement, is close to Villaraigosa, giving him its Southern California Environmental Leadership Award at a reception in Century City in December. The mayor has pressed the DWP to dramatically increase the amount of power it generates from renewable sources.

According to the group’s website, Nahai serves on its board, as does the executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, another group that has come under fire from D’Arcy.

Last week, D’Arcy questioned whether the nonprofit group places the interests of its corporate board members, some of whom are seeking renewable energy contracts with the DWP, above the interests of the utility’s ratepayers.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com


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