Los Angeles' environmental initiatives abysmal failures; architect of those policies now setting White House environmental agenda 

The Los Angeles Times has a big report today on the city's program to replace all of the trucks in their port system with "green" vehicles that reduce the city's carbon footprint. It's not working out as planned:

Yet, although officials say the area's air has improved markedly since the initiative was launched two years ago, Mejia and other drivers say their plight has gotten worse.

Many have gone from being owners of polluting rigs to leasers of late-model "clean" trucks, valued at $100,000 to $200,000 — beyond what most drivers can afford to purchase. The new vehicles yield diminished carbon footprints, thanks to green technology. But, drivers say, the new models also cost at least 50% more to operate than their exhaust-spewing predecessors, on top of the lease payments to trucking companies.

"Things were bad enough when we owned our trucks, but I would say the situation is desperate now," said Mejia, who ditched his 1995 Freightliner and now leases a "clean" 2008 International. "We're all happy that the air is cleaner. We live here too. But it is our sweat, our work, that is helping to improve the environment."

Besides paying leases that often exceed $1,000 a month, drivers say, they must absorb higher costs for insurance, registration, service and other expenses for the trucks, which feature technology like diesel particulate filters. Maintenance generally must be done at certified shops or dealers, not by the cut-rate mechanics who once serviced their rigs.

The lease process, drivers say, means that much of the financial burden — including paying for servicing needed to maintain trucks' green capabilities — falls on drivers. Environmentalists argue that the fleet may soon turn dirty again as cash-strapped drivers skimp on maintenance charges that rise as the vehicles age.

The article not incorrectly pins a lot of blame on L.A.'s Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who never met an environmental initiative he didn't like, no matter how expensive and impractical. However, the article doesn't mention that the plan was actually hatched by Nancy Sutley, deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles:

In 2005, she joined the administration of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment. Working behind the scenes, she has been the point person for Villaraigosa’s campaign to make Los Angeles the “greenest big city in America.” This includes requiring Los Angeles to produce 20% of its power from renewable sources, moving the Department of Water and Power to wind and solar energy, and replacing 16,000 diesel trucks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

So Sutley's plan for the ports is a big failure, but what about dictating renewable energy for the Department of Water and Power in L.A.? How'd that turn out?

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for shutting down non-essential agencies two days a week Tuesday as he and City Council members remained locked in a standoff over the intertwined issues of electricity rates and the city's worsening budget shortfall. ...

The latest escalation of the financial crisis began Monday when the Department of Water and Power took steps to withhold a promised $73.5-million payment to the city's depleted treasury.

Villaraigosa blamed the action on the council's rejection of an electricity rate increase, which DWP officials said was necessary to cover the DWP's fluctuating fossil fuel costs and the mayor's renewable energy agenda.

Emphasis added. That was back in April. City officials narrowly averted Villaraigosa shutdown, but it's pretty clear that the mandated dependency on renewable energy is an expensive mistake.

So where is Sutley now that L.A. is dealing with the aftermath of these disastrous policies? Currently, she's head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, because a legacy of terrible policy ideas has never been much of an impediment for those seeking higher office.

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Mark Hemingway

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