LA Mayor says green values can grow jobs, money for the city

On the steps of City Hall, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced five initiatives for the four years of his second term: job creation, the environment, transportation, public safety, and education.
On the steps of City Hall, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced five initiatives for the four years of his second term: job creation, the environment, transportation, public safety, and education. Molly Peterson/KPCC

In Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa took the oath of office for his second term as mayor and set out five goals for his next four years in office.
KPCC’s Molly Peterson says environmental responsibility figures big in several of the mayor’s initiatives.

Because Los Angeles faces the worst unemployment in three decades, Antonio Villaraigosa said two kinds of green must work together to put the city back on track.

Antonio Villaraigosa: "We know economic growth and environmental innovation must be seen as fingers on the same hand."

The mayor says a new jobs team, ambassadors to the business world, and entrepreneurs will together incubate thousands of new jobs &ndash in goods movement at the port, and in clean technology around downtown near the 110 Freeway.

Villaraigosa: "Our clean tech corridor will put LA on the international map as a center of green jobs and innovation as home to our best minds, a partnership between world-class universities and emerging industries and a leading incubator for President Obama’s economic vision of green jobs at good pay."

Villaraigosa recently acknowledged that the City of Angels has been late to the environmental game, trailing the Windy City of Chicago, the Emerald City Seattle, and others in combating climate change. Now he hopes to catch up by promoting less-polluting wind, solar and geothermal power.

Villaraigosa: "Moving forward, we’re aiming to get 40 percent of our power from renewable sources by 2020 and go 60 percent carbon-free by the end of the next decade."

More renewable energy is just part of the mayor’s ambition. Watered-down climate legislation now heading through Congress could encourage more coal use. Villaraigosa wants to take L.A. in the opposite direction.

Villaraigosa: "I’m directing the CEO of the Department of Water and Power to take every action necessary to reach these goals and eliminate the use of coal by 2020."

Coal-fired power plants provide 40 percent of the city’s energy now. It and other fossil fuels cost less &ndash that’s one reason L.A.’s energy costs are lower than elsewhere in southern California. The mayor admitted that weaning the city off coal will result in higher utility bills.

Villaraigosa: "Breaking the coal habit is a long-term proposition demanding a long-term commitment. It’s going to require investment from ratepayers. Our future depends on pricing power in relation to the environmental cost."

Department of Water and Power Chief David Nahai, who was appointed by Villaraigosa, says the public utility is ready to make good on the mayor’s promise.

David Nahai: "The objective of 40 percent by 2020 sets a new national standard and puts L.A. at the forefront of environmental leadership. It really is a momentous announcement."

But the way Sacramento lawmakers define renewable power could complicate matters. Nahai says the state legislature is drawing up standards for utilities’ energy portfolios right now.

Nahai: "Tthe kind of power that we’re talking about, would it be California only renewables, can one reach beyond the borders of the state in order to fulfill those obligations? Those are conversations that are going on right now with respect to that debate".

During Villaraigosa’s first term, he sprouted plenty of green goals, including a wide-ranging green building ordinance. But a million-tree initiative is notoriously hundreds of thousands of trees short. And a program to replace dirty diesel-fueled trucks at the port of LA with clean ones has stalled and started under legal challenges. Much of the mayor’s environmental ambition in this term involves recommitment to what he’s already begun.

Villaraigosa: "I stand determined to finish what we started, determined to find a second wind in our second term."

There are two shades of green in LA that go together beautifully, the mayor said. Fulfilling his second term goals could deepen the city’s environmental green and brighten its economic green.

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