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Publisher’s Perspective: Irvine Residents Deserve to Know What Elected Officials Are Doing to Support Climate Action

by

On Saturday (April 22nd), we will commemorate Earth Day. In the run-up to this year’s celebration, elected officials will no doubt talk about their support for bold action to address climate change. But what substantive actions have these elected officials actually taken?

Mayor Farrah Khan sent a December 2020 end-of-the-year recap to her supporters stating that she “had created and implemented a Climate Action Plan.” That statement was false. No such plan existed. It wasn’t until June 2021 (a full six months after Khan’s message) that the Irvine City Council passed a resolution calling for the development of a Climate Action Plan.

Nearly two years later, the plan remains in the development stages. Thanks to newly-elected Councilmember Kathleen Treseder, the Council has now set specific benchmarks and deadlines for the completion of the City’s Climate Action Plan.

In addition, Treseder secured Council approval for moving the City from gas hookups to all-electric for new residential and commercial construction projects.

Councilmember Larry Agran has also been hard at work securing important environmental advances here in Irvine. For nearly two years, Agran was the only member of the City Council to call for a dangerous asphalt plant — Irvine’s largest industrial polluter — to be shut down. Due to Agran’s work alongside residents in north Irvine, the plant is now being closed and in its place will be a 700-acre “Gateway Preserve” for all Irvine citizens to enjoy. The closure of that plant will dramatically help improve air quality throughout our entire City.

Councilmember Agran and his team are also working on a remarkable forestation plan that will double the number of trees in Irvine. That project will help cool our City and clean our air.

Those are four meaningful steps that Irvine elected officials have taken to address the climate crisis.

Meanwhile, the City continues to be mired in the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) fiasco! Last year, all Irvine businesses and residents were forced from their previous provider of electricity, Southern California Edison (SCE), and enrolled in OCPA — unless they contacted OCPA to “opt-out.”

Under the OCPA plan, Irvine residential ratepayers are being charged significantly more every month for the same 100% renewable electricity that SCE provides.

To make things even worse for Irvine taxpayers, the City of Irvine — which is considered a business customer of OCPA — purchases a lot of electricity to light and cool our City facilities. Since last April, the City of Irvine has been paying $90,000 per month more to OCPA — that’s a total of $1.14 million so far — for the same 100% renewable electricity that SCE provides. How can any elected official support that?

In addition to price gouging, investigations by the Orange County Grand Jury, the County of Orange, and the State of California revealed corruption, political cronyism, mismanagement, and deceptive practices at OCPA.

Last December, Councilmember Agran introduced a motion for Irvine to give OCPA a notice of withdrawal from the agency, effective July 1, 2023.

If Agran’s motion had passed, the whole OCPA disaster would be behind us in just a couple of months. Instead, Mayor Khan joined forces with Irvine’s two OCPA Board representatives — Councilmembers Treseder and Tammy Kim — in opposing Agran’s motion. Their NO vote means that Irvine is now stuck in OCPA for another year.

Councilmembers Kim and Treseder continue to say that they are “fixing” OCPA. But, what exactly are they fixing? Since taking office last December, Treseder has been focused only on firing the agency’s CEO, which has now occurred. While that is good news, firing him won’t fix the fundamental problem.

The promise made to Irvine ratepayers was that OCPA would deliver greener electricity at cheaper rates. Neither Kim nor Treseder appear to be interested in following-through on that fundamental promise. Irvine was also promised that OCPA would create a number of “green” community programs, none of which have been established.

As we approach another Earth Day, we must demand that our leaders do more than talk about safeguarding the environment. They must take action to deliver on the promises they have made … and they must be called out when they are not truthful with us.

Franklin J. Lunding

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