Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Long-planned Green Path North no longer on the DWP's path to renewable goals

Desert activists are marginally happier now, thanks to a little noticed action the DWP board of commissioners took last Tuesday. The board passed an amendment to the 2009-2010 budget; you can read it here. And the magic words only appear once. Green Path North. But that just might be the inglorious demise of a project with lofty goals that's been a nettle in the side of just about everyone involved.

In July of 2008, then-DWP chief David Nahai went out to Yucca Valley to speak to people who live there, and in Joshua Tree, and in surrounding communities, about plans for the project. (I covered it, but you can't find the story on our new website.) By that point I was joining a well-established story already in progress; fellow Angeleno Judith Lewis had reported on the matter the month before.

In Yucca Valley, posters touted DWP's need for the Green Path project.

Nahai, too, joined the Green Path North story already in progress. He had, of course, been a commissioner before he jumped to the executive side; he had approved in broad terms the development of that plan. In Yucca Valley, he told the residents over and over that specific decisions (like small silver discs marking a possible route) had not been made on his watch (the previous guy on watch was Ron Deaton).

Nahai addresses a packed school auditorium.

Nahai spent most of a morning trying to explain. Some people I spoke to afterward were impressed with his efforts. But areas outlying Los Angeles have a long history with the DWP, and so even for those people, the proof, they said, would be in the pudding.

And these were the friendly, artistic ones. Another said, "You lie, Nahai."

Nahai never really convinced them. But Green Path continued - as recently as February, though, the favorite route had become one known as A3 - mostly along a transmission corridor Southern California Edison uses, near the I-10.

By this year, Green Path North had become notorious in some business circles as a pointed example of the tension inherent between desert conservationists and green-energy advocates.

Then: Dianne Feinstein proposed her desert legislation. Antonio Villaraigosa vowed to get LA off of coal entirely within (now) 10 years. David Nahai resigned.

And we're pretty much at last week.

The DWP's strategy has changed. Now, according to the letter submitted to the Board of Commissioners by acting chief S. David Freeman and chief operating office Rahman Raj, "...LADWP is 'transmission rich' and has no justification to pursue the building of new transmission lines, unless they are deemed critical." Instead, LADWP will pursue projects near existing transmission lines.

Nahai was pursuing "purchased power agreements" - DWP wouldn't own the power, but would buy it from suppliers. Those PPAs are getting dropped, it seems. Instead DWP is going to develop "lower cost LADWP-owned alternatives."

Freeman & Raj promise "complex financial modeling" to ensure that those alternatives are, in fact, lower cost - using "generation production model runs with alternative scenaros to evaluate their cost impacts." So, it should be verifiable whether the new alternatives are lower-cost if they're LADWP-owned. But will the DWP be able to meet the goals the mayor and its chiefs have long set for it?