Reaction mixed to Davis plan to salvage energy companies

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The Orange County Register

SANTA ANA, Calif._Consumers and business people wanted their governor to provide a solution to the state’s energy crisis. They were split Monday night on whether that’s what they got.

While Gov. Gray Davis‘s State of the State speech was short on specifics, at least Davis seemed willing to admit there’s a problem, many said.

“It was very clear that the system is in a terrible mess and we’ve got to fix it,” said Gene Cramer, of San Clemente, a retired Southern California Edison employee who worked at the San Onofre nuclear plant.

Tony Brown, 48, a San Juan Capistrano contractor, said the speech mentioned the primary issue_building more power plants.

“He understands we need to build a better power supply. I hope that can actually occur.” Consumer and business advocates interpreted the speech differently, but gave it modest praise. Davis seemed to be signaling lawmakers that they can take an aggressive approach to dealing with the problem, said Doug Heller, an advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

“The legislature has the go-ahead from the governor that he will be supportive of much stronger energy reforms than he was prepared to be, even a week ago,” Heller said. Brad Ward, president of the Small Manufacturers Association of California, was unhappy that Davis did not address electricity rates.

But Ward added, “He’s committing dollars, he’s committing state resources to fix a fundamental problem. We can’t ask for more than that.”

Others were less supportive. Jody Callihan, director of operations for Astech Manufacturing, which makes aircraft parts in Santa Ana, said, “I’m a little apprehensive. Who’s going to pay for (the utility deficits caused by) deregulation? Are we going to make the businesses and consumers pay for a failed experiment?”

Michael Witzigman, of Santa Ana, a Southern California Edison customer, complained that while the governor mentioned the need for conservation, he said nothing about alternative power sources such as solar energy.

“Most of his suggestions, there was really no scheme of how it would work,” he said.

Henry Kransz of Huntington Beach said Davis failed to say enough about the real root of the problem: power generators who are charging what many call exorbitant prices.

“I don’t think he’s addressing the real problem,” Kransz said.

“This is a lot of wind in the air. It means nothing.”

Former Edison employee Cramer said he was concerned some of the governor’s suggestions aren’t feasible, specifically the suggestion that inspectors could order power plants that are down for maintenance to go back online.

“That really is skating on various dangerous grounds,” Cramer said. An inspector than doesn’t really understand a plant could cause major damage by ordering it back online, he said.

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