LA mayor urges city council to approve DWP rate hike

A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power distribution center.
A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power distribution center.
Omar Bárcena/Flickr

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is urging members of the city council to support what he calls a compromise plan to raise energy rates more slowly and with more reforms at the city’s Department of Water and Power.

Last Friday the Los Angeles City Council rejected the mayor's proposal, to add nearly .03 cents over the next year to each kilowatt hour customers use.

Villaraigosa threw support behind a plan from city council members Janice Hahn and Richard Alarcon to raise rates immediately by under a penny per kilowatt hour.

Then, Alarcon said, before it allowed future rate hikes the city would require reforms from the utility.

"They include establishing a ratepayer advocate, they include making sure we get a general manager on board, they include ensuring that we protect those businesses that are hardest hit," Alarcon said. "This motion also says that we have to be sensitive to those residents that may not be able to afford to pay and asks DWP to come forward to a plan to address those concerns."

Alarcon wants the full increase spread over two years instead of one. The mayor agreed to consider that, even as he repeated that the DWP has kept rates artificially low for too long. Still, Villaraigosa said he supports the compromise because it would preserve special funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"I am never going to support a rate increase — and there will be a rate increase, I guarantee you, at some point — I will never support a rate increase for the energy cost adjustment factor that doesn't include a lock box for renewables in the way that councilman Alarcon and Hahn have responsibly done," the mayor said.

If the L.A. City Council passes Alarcon's plan, water and power commissioners must discuss it — and send it back to the council — for the first increase to take effect.