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May. 19 2010 - 5:24 pm | 1,337 views | 2 recommendations | 4 comments

Can Arizona really turn off L.A.’s lights?

L.A's Lights vs. Arizona's "Rights"

If pressed, your average Californian would admit they never really liked Arizona all that much to begin with. Phoenix has all the smog of Los Angeles without any of the charm and if you want to see the Grand Canyon, Disneyland’s got a diorama of it.  Yet, for the most part, the two states have mostly managed to ignore each other, comfortably separated by desert, irrigation canals and the occasional accidental manmade inland sea-cum-cesspool.

All that changed last week as the Los Angeles City Council voted to initiate a boycott of Arizona businesses and services in the wake of Arizona’s new anti-immigration ‘target the Mexicans’ law.  Pasadena, San Diego and now (not surprisingly), Berkley have passed similar measures.

Yesterday, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce (who’s running for reelection) wrote Los Angeles Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa that he’d “be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation”, adding, “I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hand.”

L.A. gets 25% of its power from Arizona. Can Pierce, an electric-utility regulator, really shut out L.A’s lights?

Basically, no. The plants in Arizona that supply L.A.’s electricity are owned or have ownership stakes by Souther California Con-Ed or the Department of Power and Water and Pierce has spent the majority of the day walking back from his letter, saying that he thinks that California and Arizona are “are awful close and interrelate so much, I just think [L.A's boycott is] an impractical solution and not very well thought out.” In other words, much like the immigration bill, Pierce’s bluster amounts mostly to political grandstanding. If the details of electricity management get you excited, The Arizona Republic has a pretty good explanation of why Pierce’s plan could never work.

But could Arizona and California go to war? Actually, they already have. In 1934, Arizona Governor Benjamin Mouer called in the National Guard and the “Arizona Navy” (really a ferry boat called the Nellie Jo) to stop the construction of Parker Dam, which would divert more ‘Arizona water’ to California. As the old western saying goes, ‘Whiskey’s for drinking, water is for fighting over’.

Lake Mead has seen better days

Arizona lost the Battle of Parker Dam and today most of the resources shared by the western states of California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada are managed on the federal level through a byzantine series of treaties and agreements that regulate who gets how much water and power and when.

As ludicrous as Arizona’s threats are today, they do represent a real threat to the West’s future. Climatologists and geologists have pretty convincing evidence that for the last 100 years the American West has been wetter than average and that it is now returning to its more normal arid environment.

Despite more snow and rain this year than usual, California still remains in the grip of a nearly decade-long drought. In a 2007 New York Times article titled “Is the Future Drying Up?” on water official saw the a future of limited water and resources in the West and predicted “Armegeddon.”

None of these problems are new, but as the region careens towards economic and environmental disaster, politicians from both states prefer to engage in the political equivalent of mooning each other across the border. Boycott Arizona? Turn off L.A.’s lights? Serious times call for serious solutions. We have plenty of the former– but none of the latter.


3 T/S Member Comments Called Out, 4 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    >As ludicrous as Arizona’s threats are today, they do represent a real threat to the West’s future.<
    Huh? What a witless comment. Where do you read your news stories? The clueless CBS?
    Arizona CANNOT cut the power off — under the **CONTRACT** between AZ and LA. But AZ HOPES that LA will request the renegotiation of the contract so that LA does NOT have to keep taking that power. Gosh, I mean, how perfectly AWKWARD for LA….to be contractually forced to keep buying Arizona power in their own boycott! So, to preserve the purity and integrity of the boycott, LA should renegotiate that contract so they can get OUT of the requirement to buy that power from Arizona. YES! That's exactly what LA should DO!
    So YOU see that as a THREAT by Arizona? Oh please! There was no THREAT by AZ to cut off the power. They are LEGALLY FORCED to sell that power to LA. They cannot threaten to cut it off…. and they DID NOT. They solicited a contract renegotiation which would give LA exactly what is said it WANTS: the freedom to stop sending money to Arizona.
    The gutless, confused, narcissistic mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, is going to have egg all over his face on THIS one. Of course that presumes that any of the spineless reporters would have the stones to even ASK him about it.

    • collapse expand

      I guess you did not make it to the 5th paragraph?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Well, then you asked a question like, “Is Britney Spears REALLY carrying Justin Bieber’s baby?” just to tease people and then tell them “Uh, NO. I just thought I’d jerk you around and get you to read my article. Pretty cool, huh? Nyuk. Nyuk”.

        >Pierce’s bluster amounts mostly to political grandstanding.<
        LA had a serious smackdown coming to them for suggesting the boycott, so I think Pierce was spot on with his letter. Villaraigosa was the one who was grandstanding to the Latino Big Gubmint socialist crowd when he proposed the boycott. He should have had some of his people who were actually WORKING research the implications and get back to him. Looks like that was ANOTHER piece of city business that was sloppily attended to.
        Pierce was justifiably getting in Villaraigosa's face because, look, if LA is SERIOUS about the boycott, then Arizona is serious about opening renegotiations to let them get out of their obligation to buy power. Kind of a Mexican standoff; but I think Villaraigosa blinks first, and tries to smooth the situation over.
        If I were Pierce I follow up with another letter, I'd make damn sure everyone knew that AZ was serious and LA's stance was just some silly strutting and clowning around because they were shooting their mouth off after not having done their homework.
        LA has piled a real load of disrespect on Arizona and if I were Pierce I would be in no mood to let Los Angeles get out of this dust-up looking any way except confused, inept, and foolish.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Oh, joy. Yet another hack journalist with an agenda who hasn’t actually read the Arizona law.

    “All that changed last week as the Los Angeles City Council voted to initiate a boycott of Arizona businesses and services in the wake of Arizona’s new anti-immigration ‘target the Mexicans’ law.”

    1. The law is anti “iilegal immigration”. There is a world of difference between illegal and legal immigration.

    2. The law, which you have obviously not read, mirrors current federal law that requires immigrants to carry their documentation. I would also note that the California penal code has similar requirements as Arizona law. Funny how you ignore that.

    Its nice to have an opinion, but your uninformed opinion is worthless.

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    I'm a web TV producer and journalist living in Los Angeles. I've written for Salon, Out, The New York Observer, The Advocate and have directed music videos for bands like Grizzly Bear, as well as creating ads for BCBG/ Max Azria.

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