residents to 15% for large businesses -- are expected to go hand in hand
with rolling blackouts in the spring.
Newport Beach and Costa Mesa don't own their own power plants.
Instead, power is supplied by the Southern California Edison Co. The
utility, swamped in debt after buying power from out-of-state producers,
is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder, whose wife works for Edison, has
seen the issue from both sides of the fence. Tuesday, a day after Gov.
Gray Davis proposed measures to resolve the brewing crisis, Roeder said
he still needed questions answered.
"I'd be more positive if there were more specifics," Roeder said about
Davis' speech. "What I didn't hear from the governor is what steps we are
going to take to avoid rolling blackouts."
Without any self-sustaining plants or long-term contracts to import
power from outside municipal boundaries, both cities are expected to feel
Costa Mesa spends $1 million per year to light city streets, a figure
Roeder said would jump 18% this year. Overall, Costa Mesa spends $1.5
million on power.
In Newport Beach, department heads were asked by City Manager Homer
Bludau in a Sunday e-mail message to slash 10% from their utility budgets
to offset the rate increases.
"We can anticipate that our costs will go up 10%," Bludau said. "We're
not looking at adding any [additional funds] to the utility budgets."
While local cities grapple with the power shortages, state and
national lawmakers are also preparing to tackle the issue.
State Senator Ross Johnson (R-Newport Beach), who joined other
Sacramento legislators in unanimously approving the now-notorious 1996
deregulation bill, also said Davis hasn't adequately spelled out a
"The governor isn't providing the decisive leadership needed to deal
with California's energy crisis," Johnson said in a prepared statement.
"His comments were general and didn't provide anything really new. One
crucial question he failed to address is who is going to foot the bill
for the multibillion debts incurred by utility companies."
Federal lawmakers have also vowed to take up the issue. Rep. Chris Cox
(R-Newport Beach) was out of the country during Tuesday's White House
energy summit but said he would address the issue in committee at a round
of upcoming hearings.
"The electricity crisis in California and the role of [the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission] will be a major focus of the energy and
commerce committee in the 107th Congress," Cox said in a prepared