Mayor's DWP Green Initiative Disguises Massive Rate Hikes

That $2.50 per person carbon surcharge Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposes for customers of the Department of Water and Power is actually a pretty huge rate hike that could see bills go up 8.8 to 28.4 percent, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of the plan.

While the mayor has been billing it as a green initiative that would create 16,000 jobs, make L.A.'s residences and businesses more efficient and spark conservation programs, Times reporter David Zahniser found that the increases would also "cover the cost of existing renewable energy initiatives and the fluctuating price of coal and natural gas." In other words, as the economy falters, L.A. has a record-high unemployment rate, and the city struggles to deal with a near $700 million deficit due in July, Villaraigosa is implementing a tax of sorts under the guise of going green.

Keep in mind that the DWP is the most well-off of city departments and that it contributes $220 million a year to the city's red-ink-stained general fund. Many of the DWP's workers secured a raise -- in a city where 4,000 layoffs are planned -- just late last year.

The DWP doesn't really need the extra cash. But more and more Villaraigosa's "carbon surcharge," which he says is designed to make renewable sources 20 percent of the city's energy supply by the end of the year, seems like a gift to job-hungry unions.

While the city and this economy could use the jobs, it would be nice if folks could vote on the virtual tax hike. Instead it goes before Mayor V.'s handpicked DWP board Thursday. Zahniser states that more than a third of DWP customers could see rate hikes of nearly 19 percent under the proposal.

That $2.50-per-person hike Villaraigosa's been touting is an average increase spread out among different tiers of the DWP's constituency. But as the Times points out, many would see higher amounts tacked to their bills, with a majority of customers seeing that 8.8 percent hike.


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