Supervisor wants O.C. utility

Published on

Orange County Register

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Supervisor Charles V. Smith wants Orange County to establish its own power company, pointing to the success of Anaheim, Los Angeles and Sacramento in weathering the California power crisis.

Citing soaring prices and recent blackouts, Smith said Tuesday that private utilities and state leaders and regulators can’t be trusted to protect county residents and businesses.

“We’ve got to have a plan for long-range power,” the supervisor said.

Smith’s proposal surprised his colleagues, who balked at taking an official stand on the utility plan. Nonetheless, they agreed to direct county officials to look at the pros and cons of a county utility.

The proposal drew raves from a consumer group and skepticism from an academic energy expert.

“Energy is too vital to the public and our economy to leave in the hands of power companies,” said Doug Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayers & Consumer Rights.

University of California, Irvine, professor Peter Navarro acknowledged that long- established municipal utilities have fared much better than private utilities that have been battered by the state’s deregulation fiasco.

But he said the call to establish a county utility when the energy crisis is at its zenith is nothing more than grandstanding.

Having the county take on the role of running power plants, handling distribution and billing customers is a complex task, Navarro said, adding, “The devil’s in the details.”

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