The Department of Water and power's board on Thursday approved the first of what the Los Angeles Times has described as sizable rate increases — 8.8 to 28.4 percent — as part of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's “carbon surcharge” plan to ween the city off of coal-based power and move it toward 20 percent renewable energy by the end of the year.

Some have questioned the proposal, however, in light of the city's high unemployment rate and struggling economy. The DWP is the city's richest department, it sent $147 million in surplus cash to the city's reserves last week, and many of its employees will see raises soon even as the city plans to lay off 4,000 workers.

The first phase of four proposed rate increases, approved 4-0 by the mayor-appointed board, will go into effect unless the City Council makes a move to review the decision. Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry and Dennis Zine stated they would ask for a such a review.

Called late Thursday to confirm the news, a DWP spokeswoman declined to describe the move as a rate increase but referred the Weekly to another spokesperson who did not call back. Asked if the Times had it wrong regarding the up to 28.4 percent rate hikes for the city's water and power customers, the spokeswoman stated she had not read the article in question.

The mayor has said the “carbon surcharge” would amount only to an extra $2.50 per month extra on an average customer's bill. His office has stated the increases would bring an extra $168 million a year to the agency, create 18,000 jobs this decade, and help the city's homes and businesses become greener with energy-efficient fixtures and solar panels that would produce power they could sell to the DWP.

The Times reported, however, that at least some of the increase would go to pay for initiatives already underway.

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