More than six years ago when the Lompoc started receiving greenhouse gas allowances, Councilman Dirk Starbuck asked if the money could be returned to the ratepayers. On May 19, four years later the City Council provided direction on his idea.
The proposal was to “distribute a one-time $150 rebate (utility bill credits) to each electric utility business and residential customer receiving electric bills during the billing cycle immediately following adoption of the resolution.”
Councilman Jim Mosby started the discussion by asking the city attorney if it was “legal to use the GHG allowances for this purpose.” Apparently, some bloggers were taking exception to this proposal and threatening to sue the city if “electric department money” was given back to ratepayers.
The city attorney replied that the implementing regulations stipulated that the “proceeds could be distributed directly to electric ratepayers in a non-volumetric manner.” Translation – it’s OK to do what was being proposed as long as it is a flat credit.
Mayor Jenelle Osborne, who is also the city representative to the Northern California Power Agency, asked if this program would deplete the fund. She said there were still some projects pending that would also require the use of this money.
The staff replied that this proposal would use about two-thirds of the available resources, however the fund receives about $700,000 each year as their allowance.
Two utility commissioners spoke on the subject; each was discouraged that this plan wasn’t discussed by the UC because all meetings except the Planning Commission had been canceled by the council due to COVID-19 concerns; each had a different opinion on the matter.
One, saying he didn’t speak on behalf of the commission did so anyway and said he felt the all the commissioners would have supported this idea.
The other had a different opinion and wasn’t quite as supportive saying the funds should be used only for electrical improvements.
I was surprised at this response; had this commissioner taken the time to discuss this with the staff before calling in to the council meeting she would have known it was a legitimate use of the funds and that other reserve funds existed to complete the projects she was concerned about.
Councilman Starbuck confirmed this wasn’t the only reserve fund in the electric utility and that more than $6 million remained in another reserve fund; so using the GHG allowance for this purpose wasn’t going to leave the utility without the ability to make emergency repairs.
He then made a motion to adopt the program; the motion passed 5-0 with very little discussion.
The city of Lompoc began participation in the so-called Green New Deal several decades before the current architects of the idea were even born. Considering the foresight of long ago councilmembers to create a public utility for the city, this is the best idea I have in many years:
Give ratepayers back some of the money the utility has earned for all these years.
Note: link to staff report https://www.cityoflompoc.com/home/showdocument?id=29051.
— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committees since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at email@example.com. Click here to read his previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.