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Mayor, Al Gore push council for DWP increase

March 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A power struggle is under way at Los Angeles City Hall, where the L.A. City Council is at odds with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power over proposed rate hikes. The future of energy rates are at stake. The mayor heavily supports the rate increase because it includes money for renewable energy. Thursday he brought in some help from former Vice President Al Gore.

The rate increase for businesses like Thomas Properties at Arco Plaza would mean an increase of $1.6 million in rates for the owners.

At L.A. Cold Storage it would kick electric bills up some $200,000 and its owner says it might cause layoffs.

The average increase for residential customers would be as low as $2.40 and as high as $18 for some customers.

A city council committee considered the increases Thursday.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to how this will affect our payers, both residential and commercial," said L.A. City Councilmember Jan Perry.

Earlier Thursday Mayor Villaraigosa focused on the money for renewable energy. He got some help from some former Vice President Al Gore. By satellite from Nashville, Gore helped the mayor lobby for the plan.

"This plan will help create clean renewable energy, create lots of good new jobs and grow L.A.'s green economy," said Gore via satellite.

The mayor called it the single most significant vote ever taken by the city council to address the climate crisis. More than 40 percent of the DWP's power comes from coal and natural gas.

"Every penny of the carbon reduction surcharge will be placed in a lockbox, in that trust fund," said Villaraigosa. "It's a lockbox that can only be used and opened for the investment in renewable energy and efficiency programs."

According to the mayor, the renewable energy fund will get $168 million a year and create jobs. He says the funds will be in a lockbox and he sent a warning to the city council.

"There is no situation -- none -- where I will support an increase that does not have a lockbox for renewable green energy programs that will create more than 18,000 jobs," said Villaraigosa.

But according to the DWP, it's more about paying its bills than paying for the rising cost of energy.

Friday, the full city council will decide whether or not it's going to accept or reject that rate increase.