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North Bay Leadership Council’s members are committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and fighting global warming. Our members are installing solar panels, building new buildings that are LEED certified, conserving energy and water, reducing waste, recycling and showing leadership on how to make business more sustainable. The greening of business operations, supply chains, facilities and more is today’s reality.

What North Bay Leadership Council’s members don’t support is bad public policy and a lack of fiscal responsibility. NBLC is very concerned that the proposed Marin Clean Energy program is putting ratepayers, taxpayers and county constituents in jeopardy by pressing forward with a program that adds a new bureaucracy, is not accountable to the public or under the oversight of the California Public Utilities Commission, and comes fraught with financial risk at a time when municipalities are facing the worst fiscal crisis in memory. In the interest of full disclosure, PG&E is a member of NBLC.

NBLC agrees with the findings of the Marin County Grand Jury as stated in its report, “Marin Clean Energy: Pull the Plug.”  The report explains how the MCE program will put the Marin Energy Authority (new bureaucracy) into the electricity business, which if we learned anything from Enron, is not a venture for the inexperienced. The MEA needs, and is close to receiving, the majority of Marin’s cities and towns along with the county to move forward. What MEA doesn’t want is the vote of the people who will be ultimately responsible for paying the fare for the electricity – Marin’s taxpayers and ratepayers.

If the county of Marin and the seven municipalities do decide to move ahead with the $300 million contract with Shell Energy North America, the Grand Jury points out that “all businesses and residential customers will be transferred to the Marin Clean Energy program” unless a customer decides to opt out of the program. The opt-out feature of Marin Clean Energy is one of its most troubling aspects. The program is set up to include all electricity consumers residing in the cities, towns or unincorporated area of Marin that have joined the Marin Energy Authority. Thereby, it puts the onus of responsibility on the consumer to be informed about the choices and to act to remove himself from the program if he so chooses.

But even more troubling, and worse public policy, is that Marin is going alone in taking these risks with taxpayer money in these budget-slashing times. The Grand Jury found that no other county or community in California to date has created and implemented a program like MCE, saying, “Citizens of Marin are being led down a costly and extremely risky path not yet traveled by any other community in California. All costs incurred by MCE must be borne by the ratepayers as they are its sole source of revenue.”

While NBLC applauds innovation, it does not support taking risks with scarce resources and jeopardizing the county’s credit standing. County Treasurer Michael Smith rightly opposes the county pursuing this program for these reasons.

Like the Grand Jury, NLBC believes that there are better ways to achieve our climate change goals. NBLC has been impressed with Sonoma County’s Energy Independence Program, as authorized by AB 811, which is giving loans to businesses and homeowners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve energy and water efficiency. Sonoma’s program requires no new bureaucracy and risks no ratepayer or taxpayer money. It is a proven program that works.

NBLC applauds the cities -- Novato, Larkspur, Ross and Corte Madera -- that have not joined MEA and exercised good judgment in protecting their city coffers and the pocketbooks of their residents. We agree with the Grand Jury that the MCE plan should be “abandoned” and “efforts and resources should go forward to form public/private partnerships that will enable the county and all of the cities to achieve their present and future environmental goals."

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Cynthia Murray is the president and CEO of the North Bay Leadership Council, an employer-led public policy advocacy organization committed to providing leadership in ways to make the North Bay sustainable, prosperous and innovative. The council includes 32 leading employers in the region, including the Business Journal. Members represent a wide variety of businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions, with a work force in excess of 20,000. For more information, please contact Cynthia Murray at 707-283-0028 or www.northbayleadership.org.