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Santa Rosa council hears from legal, energy experts before power vote


Santa Rosa has hired two consultants to help City Council members understand the possible pitfalls of joining the Sonoma Clean Power Authority.

Their advice could prove pivotal for a council that is struggling to get its questions about the public power agency answered before a scheduled July 9 vote.

“I can’t even begin to guess how the council as a whole will go on this,” Mayor Scott Bartley said. “I go up and down, in and out, and any which way you can on this.”

power linesThe two consultants, one an attorney the other an energy engineer, have been answering questions from the council’s three-member subcommittee over the past two weeks. Both will be on hand to answer questions from the full council at this week’s study session, which starts at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“They’ve helped us identify issues that we think are critical,” Bartley said.

The consultant with the most experience with issues surrounding public power authorities is Michael Dean, an attorney and founder of the Sacramento law firm Meyers Nave, which specializes in advising public agencies in California.

Dean, who has been practicing law since 1976, is general counsel to the Northern California Power Agency. The Roseville-based public power agency provides electricity to several agencies in Northern and Central California, including Healdsburg and Ukiah, the Port of Oakland and BART.

In 2008, Dean helped negotiate a 20-year, $500 million power purchase agreement between the agency and Western GeoPower for “100 percent clean, green and renewable, electricity” from its geothermal power plants at The Geysers.

Dean will answer council members’ questions about liability and any other legal concerns they may have, City Attorney Caroline Fowler said.

Any reports or opinions Dean puts in writing to the council will remain confidential, Fowler said.

The second consultant is John Rosenblum, a Sebastopol-based engineering consultant specializing in industrial water and energy efficiency projects.

He has 23 years of experience and has previously done work for the city, mostly recently to help install more efficient pumps at the wastewater treatment plant on Llano Road.

He also has experience analyzing how water demand will impact greenhouse gas emissions and targets, authoring a report on the subject for the Sonoma County Water Agency and Climate Protection Campaign in 2007.

He’ll also be on hand to answer technical questions for the council Tuesday.

Windsor and Cotati have both voted to join Sonoma County in the launch of the agency, which seeks to displace Pacific Gas & Electric Co. as the area’s main electricity supplier. The two cities and the unincorporated areas of the county account for about 40 percent of PG&E meters in Sonoma County.

Of the eight cities being solicited by the county, Cloverdale, Rohnert Park and Petaluma have chosen not to join for now. Sebastopol is set to vote Tuesday, followed by Santa Rosa on July 9, and Sonoma July 15.

Santa Rosa council members have said they need advice from experts unaffiliated with Sonoma Clean Power to help them get unbiased answers to their questions and insights to help them ask better ones.

“We need — I, the subcommittee, and the whole council — need and want to understand what we are getting into,” Bartley said. “Then, you either accept the risk or you don’t.”

A 140-page report published on the city’s website Saturday suggests Tuesday’s meeting is likely to revolve around how much clout the city will wield within Sonoma Clean Power relative to the county, as well as financial liabilities and costs it may take on if it joins the agency.

In Saturday’s report, Rosenblum raises the issue of Sonoma Clean Power’s reliance on renewable energy credits to achieve its goal of having 33 percent of electricity come from renewable sources. Such credits have been labeled by critics as “greenwashing,” as they allow power users to label their energy as renewable even though they are drawing standard power from the grid. Rosenblum warns that such credits’ prices, currently reasonable, could rise sharply because they are traded on the open market and vulnerable to speculation.

The participation of Sonoma County’s largest city, where nearly 170,000 residents and businesses consume 35 percent of the electricity sold by Pacific Gas & Electric, is considered vital to the fledgling agency’s ability to spread costs over a larger base and negotiate the best possible rates from potential power suppliers.

There is intense pressure for council members to join the program, but they have so far resisted the power politics at play, winning an extension of a June 30 decision deadline and pushing for a variety of changes to language in the joint powers agreement that would govern the new agency.

But at this late date, it’s not clear to Bartley just how much say the city has over a joint powers agreement for an agency it has yet to join.

“We’re not going to reinvent Sonoma Clean Power at this point, and that shouldn’t be our goal,” Bartley said.

But other council members appear to be holding out for additional revisions to the joint powers authority, essentially Sonoma Clean Power’s constitution.

Councilwoman Julie Combs said she wants a pledge of no purchases of nuclear power in the document, as well as clear language obligating the agency to build clean power projects that would produce local jobs.

“Don’t claim it if it’s not there in writing,” Combs said.

She also wants to see greater ratepayer protections and living wages paid on future energy projects, she said. Sonoma Clean Power officials have said the time to craft many such changes is after the cities sign on.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.

12 Responses to “Santa Rosa council hears from legal, energy experts before power vote”

  1. Mac E. Velli says:

    What’s the difference between a dictatorship and Santa Rosa?

    Still thinking?


    Fire Fowler.

  2. James Bennett says:

    Again man made global warming was contrived as an instrument of our oppression.

    This little outfit; NASA just released a study stating that cardon dioxide is cooling the Earth.
    The only anthropogenic warming is happening from the erosion of ozone from their ‘geo-engineering’ ‘weather modification’ program and the HAARP program.

    These elitists think they are God.

    We pay these public officials to impose globalist will on us locally.

    Reality is wilder than fiction.

  3. Do The Math says:

    Also, why does it not state that they will not share feedback given to them from the other consultant, John Rosenblum?

    Regarding his experience:
    “He also has experience analyzing how water demand will impact greenhouse gas emissions and targets, authoring a report on the subject for the Sonoma County Water Agency and Climate Protection Campaign in 2007.
    Doesn’t this conflict with an earlier statement in this article, “Santa Rosa council members have said they need advice from experts unaffiliated with Sonoma Clean Power to help them get unbiased answers to their questions and insights to help them ask better ones”?

    Sounds like he is not an unbiased opinion given he worker with SCWA a few years ago and obviosly gave the idea a stamp of approval. No wonder they are not worried about sharing his opinion with the public!

  4. James Bennett says:

    Oh, and “study” or hiring a “consultant” equals little black holes before imposing a big black hole.

  5. James Bennett says:

    Charade…it’s A.D.D.. Alreadt done deal.

    Part of The Climate Action Plan is to eliminate propane and clean burning natural gas too.

    Interesting that the mantra for this tyranny is “choice”.

  6. Illegal is Legal says:

    I have to ask why we the people are not putting this to a vote? This should be voted on my Sonoma county residents.

    Furthermore, why is it that “we” have to opted out? I never gave my permission for the county to automatically take me away from PG&E as a customer?

    Something is very odd about this.

  7. Dan says:

    Take it from experience…people will die if PGE is dropped because these little agencies can’t handle big power outages. I’ve seen it happen elsewhere.

  8. Phi; Maher says:

    The city council is merely a proxy for the end-users…the ratepayers. By definition, consulting services that are paid for with public money belong to the public. Without being able to evaluate, agree with, refute, or even simply review the information for content, the public is unable to either decide whether SCP is right for them, or even if their public servants operated in their best interests, or merely succumbed to extremely intense political pressure in reaching their final decision.

    This is not a broader municipal issue, it’s an individual ratepayer issue. Open the reports to public scrutiny and comment. The alternative is that there will always be questions.

  9. andrew simpson says:

    Dear Messrs. Dean and Rosenblum:

    Did anyone ask you about Clean Power’s electricity rates?

    Here are some potentially interesting reference points:

    • Sonoma CCA Feasibility Study indicates no rate Improvement

    • Sonoma CCA Feasibility Study Excluded Healdsburg/NCPA

    • Water Agency acknowledges Healdsburg/NCPA rates are lower

    • My conversation with a Healdsburg/NCPA official


    From page 1: “The study estimates customers of the CCA would pay higher power rates…”

    More recent estimates indicate rate equivalence.


    This study was authored by Dalessi Management Consultants LLC.

    You’ll see on this study pages 44-46 there is detailed consideration given to the topic entitled “Joint Action With Marin Energy Authority”.

    There’s no corresponding section for Healdsburg/NCPA, the incumbent low cost power provider in Sonoma County.

    Dalessi is also consultant to Marin Energy Authority.



    “________, a civil engineer with the county Water Agency who is presenting the plan to cities, countered that Healdsburg runs its own municipal utility and has rates that are 15 to 20 percent lower than PG&E’s.”

    “Santa Rosa gets more time for public power agency decision”


    andrew simpson
    June 16, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    I asked a Healdsburg/NCPA official:
    1) How much are your rates lower than PG&E?
    2) Could you provide lower rates to Sonoma County?
    3) Would it be beneficial to Healdsburg/NCPA to expand its operations to include Sonoma COunty?
    4) Why isn’t Healdsburg/NCPA included in the Sonoma Clean Power feasbility study?


    1) Healdsburg/NCPA’s retail rates are at least 10% lower than PG&E’s; commercial rates more than 10% lower

    2) Healdsburg/NPCA could, over time, deliver more economical electricity to Sonoma COunty than PG&E subject to an orderly development program for the acquisition of new generation capacity and/or contracts

    3) It would be beneficial to Healdsburg/NCPA to expand operations to include Sononma County because operating costs tend to decline with increases in scale of generation and electricity purchasing

    4) The reason Healdsburg/NCPA wasn’t considered in the SOnoma Clean Power Feasbility Study, according to this official, was “because the Water Agency didn’t want that”.

    This was from a utility official. He chose his words carefully. Here’s what I think he meant:

    Healdsburg/NCPA is a multijurisdictional non profit with a long track record of providing outstanding local power services to communities in Northern California at very low rates. We can significantly improve on PG&E; and compared to the morons in the Water Agency, no contest.
    22 0

  10. Grapevines says:

    Biggest item missing from this article is how much more taxpayer money was wasted on the hiring of the two “consultants?” Because in the long run, it’s only smoke and mirrors being shown here.

    Santa Rosa is making a show out of showing concern and putting forth questions etc. The truth of the matter however is that they have already cut the backroom deal and have agreed to go in on this ponzi scheme that the water agency has come up with.

    The temptation of getting a share of all that money which is now going to PG&E? Get prepared to get fleeced even more than what you are now.

    Only don’t count me in on that. I can hardly wait to not only fill out the opt out form, I’m going to tell them where to file it.

  11. Steveguy says:

    The consultant got 100% ‘green’ power at 20% less cost for Healdsburg ? Sign that guy up and scrap Sonoma Greed Power !

    Even PG&E is far ‘greener’ than Sonoma Greed Power ever dreams of achieving.

  12. GAJ says:

    Bringing in experts makes sense, however, this absolutely does not.

    Why the lack of transparency?

    “Any reports or opinions Dean puts in writing to the council will remain confidential, Fowler said.”