Press Release

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

It is unfair to Valley for state not to count hydroelectric power as renewable energy

BY ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM GRAY

Looking for fairness? Better consult a map if you’re in California.

For many living along the coast, it’s considered “fair” to make electricity more expensive in the name of fighting climate change. For people who rarely need an air conditioner, the added expense is a small sacrifice. For those living inland, where temperatures top 100 degrees eight, nine or even 30 days a year, that sacrifice is far greater.

In several Bay Area communities, where median incomes are double to nearly triple those found in adjacent Valley counties, fat incentives to purchase a $75,000 electric car seem justifiable. But in the northern San Joaquin Valley, where 85,000 people commute to the Bay Area every day, such incentives would have to quadruple to make electric cars affordable.

If your political dreams are tied to giant solar farms, you’ll need a place to sell that new electricity. No problem, just require people to use only energy you’ve anointed as “renewable.” That some of California’s most vulnerable populations live and work in the much-hotter Central Valley and will have to pay far more for that power is, well, their problem.

Such moral accommodations are not right, justifiable or equitable.

Senate Bill 100, enacted in 2018, requires that California’s public utilities switch entirely to renewable energy by 2045. Until 2030, hydropower generated at dozens of existing large-scale facilities won’t count as renewable. Why would anyone remove safe, reliable and carbon-free power from the environmental scorecard?

It’s simple economics. Large-scale hydro produces about 12 percent of California’s energy each year. Because it is generated at existing dams, the cost to create hydropower is low. The only way to make solar and wind power more attractive than hydro is to arbitrarily put large-scale hydro off limits as “non-renewable.” That forces utility providers who own dams to replace their suddenly “non-renewable” hydro with mostly higher-priced solar and wind.

That extra cost will be passed along to customers.

The heaviest burden falls on places like Modesto, Merced and Turlock, where the weather is hotter and where irrigation districts have invested millions to create clean hydropower. The districts will have to buy solar or wind power to replace their “non-renewable” hydro. Worse, when they sell their suddenly excess hydropower, it will be worth less because it’s not “renewable.”

Over the next decade, those increased costs will amount to tens of millions of dollars to Valley ratepayers.

The same dynamic will hit the entire state. San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland and Los Angeles all produce hydropower that won’t count, and all of it will have to be replaced. The state itself produces 2.3 million megawatts that can’t be counted. Pacific Gas & Electric has 26 hydro facilities that don’t qualify.

Some insist this is a necessary sacrifice to save the planet. That’s not true.

If every electron consumed in California was generated at a hydropower plant, we’d have the cleanest, least-polluting, most reliable power supply in the world. A study from the University of Stuttgart, Germany, showed hydropower is the cleanest power available; solar ranks fourth.

Refusing to recognize hydro as renewable won’t do a darned thing to save the planet. It won’t cut carbon emissions, make California’s air cleaner or our electrical grid more reliable. But it will push up prices.

The environmental movement, which pushed for SB 100, simply ignores its own hypocrisy. The Sierra Club applauded wildly when the state of Washington passed a clean-energy bill similar — but not identical — to California’s this year. In Washington, the state’s vast hydropower supplies are counted as clean and renewable.

I have asked the Assembly to put the question of hydropower’s status as renewable energy on the ballot and let voters decide how to count it. Knowing that’s a long shot, we’re also taking steps to go directly to voters.

The horrifying effects of climate change are clear. No one wants to turn back the clock and see power plants spewing fossil-fuel emissions. We’ll be delighted when California is using 100 percent renewable energy — including hydro.

Until that time comes, we shouldn’t be asked to waste our hydropower or pay higher prices for electricity that is no cleaner than what we’re already producing at dams up and down the state.

It’s not just about fighting climate change. It’s also about fighting for fairness. The poorest people in California shouldn’t have to pay more so that others can profit.

Monday, September 9, 2019

In going after Trump, California is going too far with environmental legislation

By Adam Gray, Special to CalMatters

California has made a sport of disagreeing with President Trump. 

When he tweets his favorite color is red, one of my progressive colleagues inevitably introduces a bill declaring the best color is blue. 

So it was somewhat surprising when legislative leaders decided to use the President’s worst habit—ignoring real science and concrete facts—as a model for priority legislation. 

Senate Bill 1 by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins would require that California ignore new scientific findings on natural resources and water issued after January 19, 2017, the day before the Trump took office. That’s not an exaggeration. The date is actually listed in the bill 21 different times.

We cannot advance the fight for environmental quality by declaring that all science stopped on a specific date. If it’s dumb for the President to close his eyes to science, it’s dumber for us to follow him down that rabbit hole.

But SB 1 is not just dumb, it’s dangerous. 

This bill jeopardizes the most significant progress the state has made in solving its most contentious water problems. At the direction of Gov. Gavin Newsom, senior administration officials have worked diligently to update the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan without the bitter battles of the past. 

They are working on voluntary agreements on the San Joaquin and Sacramento river watersheds that will help native fish species without destroying the future of farming in California.

If enacted, SB1 would shred those agreements, destroying the goodwill that has allowed the process to develop.

When the state created the Bay-Delta Plan in 2012, it relied on data and studies that were at least a decade old and mostly outdated. 

Much of what we’ve learned since has profoundly altered our understanding of survivable water temperatures, predators, and habitat needed for salmon to spawn and grow large enough to migrate to the ocean. 

The voluntary agreements in the works since December 2018 would allow us to make decisions informed by the most accurate and modern scientific understanding of the effects of flow, temperature, habitat, and predation on the restoration of salmon populations.

But SB 1 would force the state to discard the new data and walk away from those agreements. That, in turn, would force water district officials to walk into courtrooms to protect their rights.

Other aspects of SB1 are just as misguided. The state is considering changes to the State Water Project’s operational rules. Those changes would be better for salmon and smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. But SB 1 would force the state to stick to procedures that contributed to the decline of these very species in the first place.

The implications of SB1 are profoundly disturbing, forcing the state to ignore evolving science. If Texas had passed a similar law when President Obama was elected, the proponents of SB 1 would have been first in line to condemn placing politics over science. They should look in a mirror.

We’ve got until Sept. 13 to either kill or fix this wrongheaded bill. If we don’t, it very well could set back progress on our rivers for decades.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM C. GRAY
21ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
For Immediate Release: July 2, 2019
Contact: Adam Capper
Phone: (916) 319-2021

Assembly Governmental Organization Committee Introduces Comprehensive E-Cigarette Legislative Package

(Sacramento) – Citing an unprecedented rise in electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use among middle school and high school students, Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced), Chair of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), and Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) today announced the introduction of a comprehensive legislative package to combat youth consumption of these nicotine delivery devices. The three-bill package includes AB 1639 (Gray, Cunningham, Rivas), SB 39 (Hill), and SB 538 (Rubio). The bills include provisions designed to:

  • Restrict the packaging and marketing of e-cigarettes
  • Mandate decoy sting operations
  • Establish reasonable penalties for youth in possession of tobacco products
  • Ramp up enforcement efforts and penalties against retailers who sell to kids
  • Restrict the availability of flavored e-cigarettes
  • Mandate age verification technology at the point of sale and delivery

“The number of youth using e-cigarettes is 2.5 times the number smoking traditional tobacco,” said Gray. “We must do more to protect kids from these addictive products by restricting youth access points, limiting marketing exposure to kids, and establishing sufficient penalties for underage sales and possession. There are three times as many children in this country using e-cigarettes than there are electric cars on our roads. This is a serious crisis which calls for a serious response. This legislative package is a model other states should look to emulate.”

“As a father of four, including two teenagers, I have heard firsthand stories about the spread of vaping products,” said Cunningham. “Since 2017, vaping has increased by 50 percent among middle school students, and 80 percent among high school students. These statistics are hard to believe, until you hear stories from your teenage kids about their classmates using these products. The Federal Food & Drug Administration has called the rise in teen vaping an epidemic. Like epidemics of the past, this one deserves a robust and focused public policy response. I believe this bill will help curb the rise of teenage vaping and be positive for public health.”

“This bill is about the health and well-being of kids,” said Rivas. “AB 1639 utilizes proven tools to help ensure these addictive products don’t end up in the hands of our young people. This is an important step and is the start, not the conclusion of our efforts as a legislature to tackle this important issue.”

All three bills are scheduled for a vote in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee on July 10th.

Friday, June 28, 2019
Small Business of the Year
Small Business of the Year
Small Business of the Year
Small Business of the Year

In June, Assemblymember Gray honored Blaker Brewery as the Assembly District 21 Small Business of the Year. Blaker Brewery opened a new brewery and taproom in South Ceres at the end of 2017, and held their grand opening in January of 2018. Blaker promises fresh craft beers made from largely locally grown ingredients, down to the wheat, hops, and lactose. Their beers are made with many ingredients grown by the Lucas family and other local farmers, with the goal of remaining as locally-sourced as possible.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

ASSEMBLYMEMBER ADAM C. GRAY
21ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
For Immediate Release: June 13, 2019
Contact: Adam Capper
Phone: (916) 319-2021

 

Gray Releases Statement on the Passage of 2019-20 State Budget

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) praised the passage of the 2019-20 California State Budget and highlighted a number of investments vital to the success of working families in the San Joaquin Valley.

“The budget is always a product of compromise,” said Gray. “This year, we got a lot more right than wrong with investments in our schools, health care, and efforts to combat homelessness. There are still some loose ends and details to be worked out in trailer bills, but this budget shows that we are asking the right questions. Now we just need to find the right answers.”

Healthy Savings Account

“This budget sets aside more than $19 billion dollars in reserves to prepare the state for the next recession,” said Gray. “In the past, we had a habit of spending every penny during good times, only to turn around and make painful cuts during bad times. Our savings account is healthy enough to blunt the effects of a mild recession, but we must remain fiscally prudent.”

San Joaquin Valley Medical School

“The budget authorizes the University of California to issue bonds to fund the construction of the San Joaquin Valley medical school,” said Gray. “Importantly, it puts the state’s commitment to funding the medical school into law. More detail will follow as we advance additional trailer bills in the coming weeks.”

Bay-Delta Plan Agreements

“The budget makes $70 million available for projects to support voluntary agreements with the state on Bay-Delta Plan flows,” said Gray. “Our irrigation districts continue to seek reasonable and fair terms which fully recognize the impacts any plan will have on our local economy and communities. Under the prior administration, trust was difficult to come by. It has taken many months, but I am cautiously optimistic about the direction we are headed.”

State Fair Funding

“The Great Recession forced significant cuts to state spending, and one of those casualties was the state’s historic funding commitment to California fairs,” said Gray. “That is why I authored AB 1499 to restore a portion of that funding through the dedication of sales tax revenues generated at the fairs themselves. That bill was signed into law, and this year the fairs will receive more than $20 million from the state to upgrade aging infrastructure and support operations.”

Los Banos Fire Station

“The west side has a longstanding need for additional public safety infrastructure,” said Gray. “With an increasingly intense fire season and significant population growth in Los Banos and surrounding communities, the need for additional fire facilities is clear. Working with Supervisor Silveira, Mayor Villalta, and Mayor Nagy, we were able to secure $5 million in the budget to support the construction of a multipurpose fire station, emergency operations center, and regional training facility in Los Banos. This facility will help to improve response times in the city and better integrate local and regional emergency services to assist neighboring counties and react to statewide disasters.”

Merced College Agriculture Technology Building

“As announced earlier this year, the budget fulfills the promise of funding the construction of a new agriculture technology building at Merced College,” said Gray. “Governor Newsom toured Merced College last year and included funding for the building in his original budget proposal. Today I am happy to say the Governor came through for us.”

Modesto Junior College VOLT Institute

“Building on the state’s investment last year, the budget includes an additional $1 million for the VOLT Institute and Modesto Junior College to gives students the training they need to take on highly skilled manufacturing jobs at local employers like Gallo Winery, Del Monte Foods, and Crystal Creamery,” said Gray. “The push to send every kid to a four-year university has created a lack of qualified blue-collar workers at a time when they are in high demand. These are good-paying jobs you can raise a family on without racking up thousands of dollars in student debt.”

Friday, June 7, 2019

Modesto and Turlock made it onto the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times a few days ago, but not for reasons we might hope.

They’re paying attention to legislation in Sacramento that would make a rule addressing climate change a little more fair for us, meaning customers of the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts. That asinine rule already has cost everyone buying electricity or farm water from either utility tens of millions of dollars.

Friday, June 7, 2019

When California embarked on its quest to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as a global model to stave off climate change, its first target was the state’s electric power industry.

A series of ever-tightening decrees required utilities to shift from coal, natural gas and other carbon-based sources to a “renewable portfolio,” eventually reaching 100% non-carbon sources by mid-century.

The acceptable alternatives were specified in law, dominated by windmills, solar panels and geothermal wells. But for purely political reasons, the list omitted two power sources that are both free of greenhouse gases and renewable: large hydroelectric dams and nuclear plants.