At its much-anticipated board meeting on Tuesday, December 11, East Bay MUD’s Board of Directors disappointed clean energy advocates by voting to discontinue further exploration of an East Bay Community Choice energy program. The decision came despite evident community backing for the agency to take leadership in establishing a Community Choice program.
Much of that community support was mobilized through the efforts of the Clean Energy and Jobs Oakland campaign, which will continue its efforts to establish Community Choice in the East Bay despite the vote. The campaign has been reaching out since July to Oakland community organizations and businesses, and to city council candidates and incumbent members regarding the benefits that could come from a Community Choice program. Representatives from many of these groups appeared and spoke at the Board meeting or wrote letters to the East Bay MUD directors in favor of moving forward with Community Choice.
Speakers during the public comment section of the Board meeting included representatives of both Oakland and Berkeley Climate Action Coalitions, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, Local Clean Energy Alliance, the Sierra Club, Bay Localize, newly elected Oakland City Council member Dan Kalb, and Berkeley City Council members Linda Maio and Gordon Wozniak. Prior to the meeting, the Board had received a letter from the Clean Energy and Jobs Oakland campaign signed by 17 Oakland organizations calling on East Bay MUD to move forward. Oakland City Council members Rebecca Kaplan and Pat Kernighan, State Assembly member Nancy Skinner, and 800 other East Bay individuals did the same.
The public comment session followed a presentation by East Bay MUD staff, which focused heavily on the difficulties and risks of Community Choice, with only cursory coverage of the potential benefits and risk mitigations possible with such a program. Members of various East Bay chambers of commerce closely aligned with PG&E called on the Board to stick with its core function (water), and the directors voted unanimously to abandon further investigation into establishing an East Bay Community Choice program. The Board did support efforts by cities to form a Community Choice program on their own, with the possibility that East Bay MUD could serve as program administrator if such an effort were to succeed.
As Al Weinrub, Coordinator of the Local Clean Energy Alliance put it, “despite the fact that the waste-water treatment plants will be under water and the snowpack will be diminishing, despite the significant call from the City of Berkeley and a number of Oakland City Council members, despite the strong call from seventeen significant Oakland organizations, despite over 800 emails from constituents, and despite some very strong statements at the (East Bay MUD Board) meeting, the Board decided to wash its hands of Community Choice....Like most institutions, oblivious to the climate perils of our time, the Board abdicated all responsibility.”
Members of the organizing committee of the Clean Energy and Jobs Oakland campaign expressed disappointment at East Bay MUD’s decision, but are determined to pursue the drive to establish a Community Choice energy program in the East Bay. They will now shift the focus of their campaign to persuading Oakland and Berkeley to take leadership in these efforts.