Friday, May 24, 2024

IS THIS NEWSOM’S BEST MOVE AS GOVERNOR?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY,
JUNE 11, 2024, OR THEREAFTER

 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “IS THIS NEWSOM’S BEST MOVE AS GOVERNOR?”

 

        For sure, Gov. Gavin Newsom believes his 2020 stay-home order at the start of the coronavirus pandemic saved thousands of lives.

 

        Many other states soon followed with similar orders, although some never ordered much significant change in normal behavior.

 

        There is some evidence that Newsom’s order saved lives, a statistical fact disputed in Florida and other states governed by conservative Republicans.

 

        But there will be no doubt about the lives saved by Newsom’s latest medical move: He’s ordered CalRx, the Medi-Cal prescription program, to buy thousands of doses of generic Naloxone, the main reliable fentanyl antidote, and have them distributed by police, fire departments, hospitals, colleges, high schools and other qualifying organizations to people believed to be at risk of dying from fentanyl poisoning, even if they don’t think they ever took the drug.

 

        For plenty of people consume fentanyl without suspecting it.

 

        A stunning figure from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration shows that six of every 10 counterfeit pills sold in this country now contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, a 50 percent increase since 2021, when four of 10 fake pills contained the drug.

 

        To be poisoned, you don’t need to visit Tijuana or other parts of Mexico where many drugs that require prescriptions are faked and can be easily bought. Thousands of persons have died in California from taking fentanyl without knowing it, via smuggled -in pills and those actually made in American labs.

 

        Signs of a fentanyl overdose are not very different from symptoms of other opioid drug overdoses: Small, constricted “pinpoint” pupils; falling asleep or losing consciousness; slow, weak, or failed breathing; choking or making gurgling gasps; a limp body, cold and/or clammy skin, plus discolored skin, often in lips or nails.

 

        Just two milligrams can cause overdose or death. But fentanyl can neither be smelled nor tasted, making it nearly impossible to tell without special test strips if pills contain or have been laced with the opioid. That makes it essential in this era to buy pills only from reputable, proven sources.

 

        Most of the 5,942 persons who died of fentanyl poisoning in California between September 2021 and the same month in 2022, the last full year for which figures are available, had no idea they were ingesting fentanyl when they took it.

 

        Enter Naloxone. As early as 2018, a California law known as AB 2760 required prescribers to offer patients knowingly taking fentanyl a companion scrip for that opioid-reversing agent if they are taking more than 90 milligrams of fentanyl or a morphine equivalent daily.

 

        But Naloxone was expensive when then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2760. No longer. From now on it will be free when administered on an emergency basis. Even in this year of an unusually tight state budget, Newsom found money to pay for enough to stock all relevant agencies.

 

        CalRx will buy 3.2 million twin packs of a new over-the-counter version of the antidote for $24 per pack, about half the market price, from a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm which only weeks ago saw its product approved by the FDA. Again, the new packs will be free to all who need them.

 

        This will be part of a previously announced program seeing CalRx buy generic and biosimilar drugs from makers of inexpensive insulin and other medications. The original goal was to move generic drug makers toward lowering prices not just for the state but for ordinary consumers.

 

        Generic pharma companies are sometimes reluctant to drop prices, but the mass buying power of the state’s Medi-Cal program was enough to move one Naloxone maker this time. Some opposition to lowering prices stems from big-name pharmaceutical makes like Bayer paying smaller generic firms not to make some drugs, thus forcing consumers to continue buying expensive name brands even after patents have expired.

 

        The trick now will be for friends and companions of unknowing fentanyl users to recognize symptoms and call for help quickly, much the same way as strokes have long been handled. Only time will tell if this works, but Newsom at least has moved as quickly as possible to try saving fentanyl victims. In this area, that’s all anyone can ask of a governor and more than most have bothered to do.


-30-
    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

SCHIFF STILL LOOKS LIKE A SENATE SHOO-IN

CALIFORNIA FOCUS

FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2024, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

“SCHIFF STILL LOOKS LIKE A SENATE SHOO-IN”

 

Adam Schiff counted on this back in February, when he blasted out TV commercials designed to promote former baseball all-star Steve Garvey to Republican voters just as millions of Californians were filling out mail primary election ballots:

 

Garvey, the GOP’s U.S. Senate candidate for the seat long occupied by the late Democrat Dianne Feinstein, looks like a green rookie as he campaigns – when he even bothers to campaign. (He didn’t bother showing up for his party’s spring state convention.)

 

        Not only does Garvey duck questions of many types, but when he does talk, he can look plain silly.

 

        One recent example came when Garvey was asked by a television host about homelessness.

 

        He said he’s been “stunned” as he travels the state by the extent of homelessness he’s seen.

 

        It’s true this is a ubiquitous and massive phenomenon that no amount of money has seemed to resolve. But it’s one that has gathered steam for many years, and you would need to look hard to find anyone in this state who has not seen at least one of the sad-looking tent cities sprouting under freeway bridges and along sidewalks in virtually all parts of California.

 

        To be “stunned” by this, as Garvey described himself, indicates he simply wasn’t looking as the unhoused multiplied.

 

        While studies have shown everything from mental illness to ever-rising rents, from drug addiction to post traumatic stress disorder has contributed to the problem, Garvey ascribed it to “a lack of oversight,” adding that “Obviously, it’s because the weather in California, it’s good.”

 

        Yes, it often is. But not during the torrential rains of the last two winters, which brought the misery index in homeless encampments to unprecedented levels.

 

        The homelessness issue is but one that Garvey views simplistically, figuring an audit “will get to the bottom of this.”

 

        As he spoke, Garvey’s lack of exposure to a phenomenon that most Californians have watched grow for decades became obvious. He also has said little or nothing about rapidly rising utility rates and other aspects of inflation, nor offered solutions to any other California problems. He says he’s pro-life, but would not vote to restrict abortion rights, and pledges to fight “out-of-control inflation,” but gives no indication of how he might do this.

 

        It would be difficult to find a candidate proffering fewer specifics, and while Schiff struggled to keep a straight face during the primary season’s candidate debates, there were times it was plainly difficult for him to seem anything but eager to run against Garvey.

 

        All that’s without much mention so far in the campaign of either Garvey’s admitted past marital infidelities or his back taxes.

 

        But there likely will be little mercy from Schiff once the fall campaign begins. With at least three times as much cash on hand as Garvey entering the summer, count on a barrage of Schiff advertising centered on early and mid-October, when mail ballots for the November general election will reach most California mailboxes.

 

 

        Schiff advertised heavily against Garvey last winter, calling him a devoted MAGA Republican in ads that seemed to blast him, but actually made him more attractive to Republican voters.

 

        The purpose was to knock Democratic Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter out of the runoff, and it worked. Porter finished a distant third after gambling her career on getting a top-two primary finish and a chance to contest Schiff. Instead, she’s serving out her third term in the House and headed back to teaching law.

 

        But the Schiff ads against Garvey will surely become more biting in the fall. They may show the ex-slugger with the Popeye-like biceps shyly avoiding answering questions every other candidate in the winter debates handled easily.

 

        For sure, Schiff will be no softer on him than he was when leading two impeachments of former President Donald Trump.

 

        So far, Garvey lacks not only the money to seriously contest Schiff, but the depth of knowledge about the state that Schiff absorbed while in the Legislature and Congress.

 

        Schiff wanted a sure thing when he placed the ads that let Garvey beat out Porter. Barring a remarkable comeback, that’s what he’s got.

 

            -30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

 

Suggested pull-out quote: “Schiff’s ads made Garvey more attractive to Republicans."

Monday, May 20, 2024

WRONG AGAIN: PUC MOVE WON’T LOWER ELECTRIC BILLS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY,
JUNE 7, 2024, OR THEREAFTER

 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

        “WRONG AGAIN: PUC MOVE WON’T LOWER ELECTRIC BILLS”

 

        California’s benighted Public Utilities Commission claims its latest move to please the privately owned power companies it regulates will actually lower electric prices for some folks, especially the wealthiest and largest users.

 

        But wait: As with most PUC rulings and claims of the last half century, this one has some factual problems.

 

        Here’s what’s happened: The PUC dictated only days ago that starting late next year, all customers of the Southern California Edison Co., Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. will pay a fixed monthly charge in addition to usage costs. The fixed charge will be $24.15 for most ratepayers, and either $6 or $12 per month for low-income folks enrolled in discount programs.

 

        The money supposedly will fund installation and maintenance of electrical equipment needed to bring power to homes. To compensate for the new charge, prices for actual power use will drop between 5 cents and 7 cents per kilowatt hour. One kwh is about the amount of juice needed to run a coffee maker for an hour.

 

        This change will mostly benefit the wealthy, as those who use the most power will save the most. So much for years of campaigns that actually got many Californians to cut their electricity usage. This change makes electric car ownership and use of air conditioning more attractive.

 

        But any lowered bills will not last long. In fact, because of the time lag in the new fixed rates' effective date, the great likelihood is that no one’s net monthly bill will drop at all.

 

        For this, there are two big reasons: 1) By the time it takes effect, at least one or two of the Big Three utilities will likely have filed for and won a separate general rate increase, and 2) Even more certainly, a charge for reviving and partially renovating the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant will take hold.

 

        That’s partly because the utilities get increases regularly on a rotating basis. PG&E ratepayers started paying on one last winter, and customers of Edison and SDG&E won’t be far behind.

 

        Everyone buying from one of these private utilities will also pay a per-kilowatt hour rate increase for the initial five-year extension in the life of Diablo Canyon, on the coastline north of San Luis Obispo. Gov. Gavin Newsom and his five PUC appointees agreed last year that Diablo must live on at least five years beyond the 2025 date previously set for its closure.

 

        Keeping it open, they say, is essential because renewable energy from wind and solar sources has not increased enough to replace Diablo’s power, about 9 percent of all California electricity.

 

Meanwhile, the advocacy Environmental Working Group said last year keeping the plant open will cost customers between $20 billion and $45 billion, to be assessed as additional charges on power used. Others, including PG&E, say the cost will be less. But the average customer will likely pay in the neighborhood of $5 per month for this, and there go the savings for slightly lower per-kilowatt hour rates in the vaunted new pricing formula.

 

        If PG&E, which owns Diablo Canyon, gets the additional 15 years of operation it has also requested, that sum will grow. Customers may not realize they are paying this new charge, because the PUC will have the companies include the charge in a bill category called “public purpose programs.”

 

        But bet on this: The utilities get between 10 percent and 14 percent profit on every dollar they spend on capital investment in things like transmission lines. Expect PG&E to profit at least that much for whatever it spends to keep Diablo Canyon open.

 

        So far, PG&E has only asked for these charges to be paid in 2024 and 2025. But the longer life Diablo eventually wins, the higher the cost will go, and the greater leap most California electric bills will take.

 

        “This is by far the largest financial commitment to any single project the PUC has been asked to endorse,” said David Weisman, executive director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.

 

        So much for the PUC’s claim to be making electricity  cheaper.

 

    -30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

SHOULD PUBLIC COLLEGES OFFER CLASSES IN AGITATION, PROTEST?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, JUNE 4, 2024 OR THEREAFTER
 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “SHOULD PUBLIC COLLEGES OFFER CLASSES IN AGITATION, PROTEST?”

 

        It’s a question central to the commencement cancellations, protest encampments and building takeovers that have been significant features of college life across California and America this spring:

 

        Should taxpayers fund college classes in agitation and protest, currently offered on many campuses?

 

        No one knows exactly how many products of these classes have populated the protests and arrest rolls this spring, but bet on there being a significant number.

 

        Not every campus offers such classes today, and what they teach can be used anywhere in protests of almost anything, from support for Palestinians and Hamas to backing Israel and organizing insurrections that invade government buildings to disrupt key proceedings.

 

        But since a substantial percentage of those arrested around the country this spring had no connection to the campuses where they camped out – 60 percent of arrestees at City University of New York, 24 of 64  at UC San Diego, 40 percent at MIT and 26 of 33 at the University of Pennsylvania, for just four examples – it’s a safe bet at least some of the springtime protesters were trained in agitation by public institutions.

 

        Here’s what the catalog entry says about “Communications Studies 20, Agitation and Protest,” an offering of Santa Monica College, the community college sending more transfer students than any other to the University of California:

 

        “Agitational and protest communication includes the strategies, tactics and communication utilized by movements to resist or provide different perspectives, including those that have been excluded or silenced. Attention is given to theories, contexts and strategies…as well as numerous examples of diverse protest movements in modern and contemporary history.”

 

        The class offers three transferable credits that count toward UC graduation.

 

        Did the protesters at UCLA who allegedly blocked the entrance to the main undergraduate library there this spring to all who lacked a yellow wristband learn that tactic in such a class? Some UCLA students said they could not enter that library until and unless they obtained the wristband by signing a statement backing the Palestinian side in the current Middle East conflict (VIDEO-2024-05-10-12-59-23). UCLA officials did not return calls and emails requesting authentication for that claim, but did say some public walkways were blocked to people not wearing yellow wristbands during the five-day encampment on the grassy central quad there.

 

        Classes akin to the Santa Monica College course are listed in catalogs of several California State University campuses, including those in San Marcos, Long Beach and Sacramento.

 

        The Long Beach State catalog entry describes “Communications Studies 415 – Rhetoric of Social Movements and Protest” – as a three-unit course that “examines goals, strategies and effects of groups that form to advocate social, political and/or moral change. Focuses on how (agitator) groups communicate messages and how institutions of power respond in order to control or resist change.”

 

        Descriptions are very similar at virtually all campuses offering this type of class.

 

        Similar classes are spreading to other campuses, too. UCLA, for one, next fall will inaugurate a new undergraduate seminar “highlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander politics and policy advocacy” that will “allow UCLA students to put theory into practice this fall.”

 

        A question no campus has yet addressed is whether public colleges exist in part to help unify Americans or to contribute to social unrest and racial and ethnic identity politics. Or possibly both.

 

        But there is no doubt this spring’s spate of campus encampments have blocked Jews and other “Zionists” from entering some buildings and spaces, like the UCLA encampment itself. Denizens of the encampment there erected barriers to keep out anyone not in agreement with their cause. Some participants were videoed preventing Jewish students from walking to classes and while accosting a student wearing a star of David necklace.

 

        Said Nicole Rosen, spokesperson for the Santa Cruz-based AMCHA Initiative, which has long tracked campus anti-Semitism nationally, “When universities don’t insist on enforcing their policies and holding students accountable, with consequences, outside agitators and extreme students will take over.”

 

        Meanwhile, the contributions of publicly-funded classes teaching how to accomplish this have so far not been officially measured this spring.

       

       

-30-
    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Monday, May 13, 2024

MISINFORMED ANTI-VAXXERS CAUSING THREAT OF EPIDEMICS

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, MAY 31. 2024, OR THEREAFTER

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS

 

     “MISINFORMED ANTI-VAXXERS CAUSING THREAT OF EPIDEMICS”

 

        There is no major crisis yet, but California and the rest of America are currently under unquestionable threat of a variety of epidemics, some of which could be crippling or fatal.

 

 

        Make no mistake: This is the work of anti-vaccination activists led by current independent presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who was working to discredit vaccinations long before the COVID-19 pandemic, even as he denied being an anti-vaxxer.

 

 

        RFK Jr., milking his assassinated father’s name and reputation for all he’s worth, maintained in a Congressional hearing that “I have never been anti-vaxx. I have never told the public to avoid vaccination.” But just last July, he also said “There is no vaccine that is safe and effective.”

 

 

        Hey Junior, ever heard of the Sabin polio vaccine? Thanks to that one, there were no – zero – cases of the crippling polio virus detected in this country between 1979 and 2013, a 34-year period unprecedented in world history. No such thing as a safe and effective vaccine?

 

 

        Since that lone 2013 case, which might have been transmitted by a foreign traveler to one of the rare individuals in America who never got the Sabin vaccine, there have been no more. But in 2022, traces of wild polio virus were found in wastewater in three New York counties.

 

 

        There is similar, if not quite as absolute, effectiveness from the other vaccines required for admission to California public schools: vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), in addition to three doses of polio vaccine.

 

 

         Measles causes fever, rash, coughs, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Complications can include ear infections, coughs, brain damage and even death. Consequences of diphtheria include difficulty breathing, heart rhythm problems and occasionally death. Besides its trademark of a whooping cough, pertussis can cause nervousness, dry mouth and nausea, among other symptoms.

 

 

        Each of these is highly contagious, with vaccination the only certain defense against them for those exposed to infected persons.

 

 

        Vaccinations against these diseases were not required by public schools merely on some whim. The requirement came only after vaccines were long proven safe and effective.

 

 

        It’s true Covid vaccines were not as thoroughly proven as the others, but there is no question those vaccines are the main reason hospital case loads dropped radically after vaccinations began, to the point there are few places that now require masking.

 

 

        None of this stopped Kennedy and his Childrens Defense Fund from trying to convince parents to obtain medical exemptions from almost all vaccines for their children, many by using the few doctors willing to certify some children as having health risks if they are vaccinated.

 

 

        It’s also true the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) admits that Covid vaccines created a minor incidence of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart’s lining), almost wholly among adolescents and young adults. These cases number less than 100 in several years of Covid vaccination, making the odds minimal for any individual to have lasting ill effects from Covid vaccines.

 

 

        But listen to Kennedy and you’d think the cases number in the millions. His well-publicized, but inexpert (he’s not a physician, not even a renegade one) rhetoric is one reason why even as a few thousand measles cases popped up around California and elsewhere last winter, pediatricians reported a sharp increase in the number of

parents with fears about getting their kids vaccinated. One very dangerous side effect of all this has been that hearing exaggerations about the relatively few problems with Covid vaccines also spurred fears of other vaccines.

 

 

        This fear causes some parents to keep their kids out of schools where vaccination is required unless parents can produce a medical excuse. Along with the problems inflicted by online schooling, it is a large reason for the recent increase in home schooling.

 

 

        Milking the very fears he has helped stoke is Kennedy, who might affect this fall’s presidential election, even though it’s very uncertain which of the major candidates might be most impacted.

 

 

        The upshot is that there is now a threat of epidemics of diseases long considered all but extinct. If they arise, anti-vaxxers and their vastly exaggerated concerns will be at fault.

 

       

 -30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net.

IS A NEW TRUMP ‘WAR’ ON CALIFORNIA BREWING?

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2024, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
      “IS A NEW TRUMP ‘WAR’ ON CALIFORNIA BREWING?”

 

        With former President Donald Trump not losing much voter support even as he’s stood trial for some of the many felony charges against him, some California officials report they’ve begun readying themselves for what seems sure to follow if the 45th President wins a new White House term in November: a second legal and rhetorical “war” on this state.

 

        It’s often glossed over when voters look back on Trump’s term as President, which covered the years 2017-21, but he unquestionably conducted such a campaign last time he had the chance.

 

        Trump never explicitly said so, but his main grievance against America’s most populous state was that Democrat Hillary Clinton defeated him here by almost 3 million votes in 2016, providing the margin by which Trump lost the national popular vote that year. If it happens again this fall – and all polls indicate that’s very possible – Trump’s grievance will only grow deeper.

 

        For if there’s one thing he wants more than almost anything else – except remaining rich and powerful – it’s to win the popular vote, which would supply a mandate for his agenda, just spelled out in a remarkable pair of springtime interviews with Time Magazine.

 

        Trump said he would not hesitate to use the military to round up and deport any immigrants here illegally, even if they are really legitimate. This would apparently violate the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act prohibiting use of the military against civilians, but Trump said undocumented immigrants are not civilians, and chances are judges he appointed will uphold whatever he does.

 

        Trump also threatened police departments that fail to cooperate in any such military operation: He said he would deprive them of all federal funding, even if those funds have been specifically appropriated by Congress in an act that he himself might have signed.

 

        In his earlier war on California, Trump tried just that tactic against police departments that carried out sanctuary city laws passed by city councils or county boards.

 

        This was just one type of action in Trump’s “war,” which was largely thwarted by Xavier Becerra, then the state’s attorney general and now the federal secretary of Health and Human Services.

 

        Becerra also fought for years to keep the 1970 federal Clean Air Act’s California waiver in effect despite Trump’s determined effort to cancel it. The waiver lets California impose stricter smog standards on cars and other polluters than federal ones. Trump also tried to cancel virtually all federal clean air and water rules, even when industries involved wanted to keep them going. His moves were quickly reversed when President Biden replaced him, but Trump has said he would immediately resume that effort if elected again.

 

        Then there’s abortion. Trump told Time he would not oppose Republican-run states tracking pregnant women and preventing them from seeking abortions. This would include the many now coming here from states like Idaho and Arizona, where abortion is severely restricted. Count on Gov. Gavin Newsom and current state Attorney General Rob Bonta to try preventing such abortion tracking from extending to California, and to work at reversing any attempts to restrict travel by pregnant women.

 

        Trump also promised to extend the wall that already reaches across parts of California’s border with Mexico. Only Congress could prevent this, but it never stopped such efforts when Trump was previously President.

 

        California’s growing legal marijuana industry could also expect some sort of reversal of Biden’s recent loosening federal rules on medicinal use of pot. It’s anybody’s guess whether Trump would send federal agents or the military to shut down the many marijuana shops now operating in California.

 

        Plus, Trump was consistently slow to grant disaster designations for areas ruined by wildfires, depriving homeowners and others for months of federal benefits that have come quickly under Biden. Trump blamed California for those fires, claiming the state failed to clean up forest floors that burned. He never acknowledged that most such areas are on federally-owned land not under state control.

 

        No one knows all the areas a resumed Trump war on California might affect, but it’s a safe bet these would be some. For Trump has not changed much since being voted out in 2020.

 

        -30-

 

 Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

 

Monday, May 6, 2024

PG&E GETS A DIABLO INCH, NOW GOES FOR A MILE

 

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, MAY 24. 2024, OR THEREAFTER

 

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
        “PG&E GETS A DIABLO INCH, NOW GOES FOR A MILE”

 

        Give then an inch, went the old saying about the once-dynastic New York Yankees baseball team, and they’ll take a mile.

 

 

        Now it seems that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has become the same sort of unbeatable organization as the old Yankees, surviving negligence judgements, a manslaughter conviction stemming from wildfires it caused, two bankruptcies and multi-billion dollar fines to emerge as an even more ambitious and rapacious company than before.

 

 

        That can be seen in the firm’s latest move on extending the life of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power plant, which has seen no dangerous incidents since 1985 despite sitting near a network of well-documented but so-far-quiescent earthquake faults. This will be financed with higher rates for almost all Californians, not only PG&E customers.

 

 

        Diablo is the state’s last functioning nuclear facility, having survived other plants at Humboldt Bay, Rancho Seco and San Onofre.

 

  

        The plant was slated to shut down next year, making way for its replacement in the state’s electric grid by renewable energy sources, from wind farms to desert-area solar thermal plants to increased hydroelectric production and vastly more rooftop solar panels.

 

 

        A lot of that alternative energy is not coming on line as early as expected by ex-Govs. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who both figured Diablo would close next year.

 

 

        Under current Gov. Gavin Newsom, it became clear renewables are not increasing at a pace to keep the grid sufficiently supplied with power unless Diablo stays open awhile longer.

 

 

        So the plant, on the coast north of San Luis Obispo, remains operative and now PG&E. which added a new Diablo charge to the electric bill of every utility customer in the state not using a municipally owned electric company, will now stay open until at least until 2030.

 

 

        That was supposed to be a very firm deadline by which renewables would have to be online in quantities sufficient to make up for Diablo’s 2,240 megawatts and then some. That’s 17 percent of all zero carbon power in the California inventory, and 9 percent of all electricity produced in the state.

 

 

        But now PG&E is asking the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a full 20 more years of operation at Diablo.

 

 

        “You can’t fault them for trying,” said David Weisman, executive director of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility Legal Fund, which once thought its work for a Diablo shutdown was all but accomplished. “They always do.”

 

 

        The problem, he says, is that 20 more years of Diablo operations would contravene state law.

 

 

        Besides that, he said, there’s this question: If keeping Diablo open an extra five years has already added substantially to California’s highest-in-the-lower-48-states electric rates, how much will 15 years more cost for retrofits and other safety improvements?

 

 

        Whatever the eventual figure, and PG&E hasn’t yet given an amount, customers will pay even more than now, when many have just been assessed increases in the $30 per month range.

 

 

         Said Weisman, “There is inevitably going to be a cost difference between a machine that needs to last five more years and a machine that needs to last 20.”

 

 

        Then there’s the question of safety, never really questioned by nuclear advocates like Californians for Green Nuclear Energy, whose leader, Gene Nelson, resides less than 10 air miles from Diablo.

 

 

        Said Dianne Curran, attorney for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace and an opponent of Diablo extensions, “the NRC must ensure that (extending Diablo) does not pose a significant risk for public health and safety or the environment.”

 

 

        She is asking new hearings by the NRC to determine both safety and whether the longer extension is really needed to maintain California electricity supplies.

 

 

        Ultimately, it may be judges in the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who decide the plant's future. They will have to consider an assessment by a top NRC safety investigator that called for closure due to quake hazards.

 

 

        This dispute will likely run years into the future, during which California’s Public Utilities Commission would do well to reconsider its recent reductions in payments from utilities to homeowners for spare power from rooftop panels, reductions that instantly lowered solar energy expansion in California.

 

 

-30-

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net