Dia a Dia Opinion Editorial: We all benefit from cleaner air, but some of us are paying more than others for this progress

February 27, 2018

By: Carlos Antonio H. Vaquerano

Los Angeles has a long history of having some of the worst air pollution in the country. Over the years, we have seen many days where the sky was thick with smog and haze. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by air pollution, which is part of the reason why Latinos care deeply about environmental protection. A recent poll showed that 85 percent of Latinos consider “reducing smog and air pollution” a top priority. While Californians – and by extension Latinos –  have invested a lot of resources into improving the state’s air quality, in some instances the costs of those investments are not being evenly allocated. Some Californians, including many Latinos, could end up paying roughly $150 more per year in energy bills while people in other parts of the state pay less than their fair share.

The problem stems from the state legislature’s decision to require major utility companies to purchase long-term clean energy contracts. The goal of increasing energy production from solar technology and other clean, sustainable sources was the right decision. At the time, it was expected that all Californians would share in both the costs and benefits of these renewable energy investments.

In recent years, however, there has been an increased growth of new energy providers, including Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs). These entities are responsible for purchasing energy for their customers while existing utility companies continue to manage the power grid and delivery infrastructure. Customers in some parts of the state who receive their power from CCAs pay just 65 percent of their share of the costs for the state’s long-term energy investments. That forces other electricity customers who continue to buy power from their utility to pay more to cover the difference.

Current law is supposed to ensure that customers of an existing utility aren’t paying more as a result of the formation of a CCA, but these regulatory protections have failed. Now, instead of ensuring fairness, our government has created a system that imposes an unfair burden on certain electricity customers for investments in clean energy that benefit us all.

The Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund was created to promote social justice and economic prosperity. We work with many Latino families that are struggling to make ends meet. We cannot tolerate a system where many of these families are being burdened with significantly higher energy bills, not because of their energy usage, but because of faulty government regulations.

The California Public Utilities Commission has the authority to address this problem and has recently opened a formal proceeding to review this issue. We urge them to act quickly to correct this unjust arrangement.

Carlos Antonio H. Vaquerano is executive director & founder of the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund.

 Dia a Dia, February 27, 2018