In the past few years, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) has made remarkable strides towards a positive and sustainable future. Last week, the DWP Board approved a 15% energy efficiency target by 2020, marking a huge step forward. Last year, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign succeeded, with DWP setting groundbreaking targets to get out of its two coal-fire power plants — the Navajo Generating Station by 2015 and the Intermountain Power Project by 2027 at the latest.
In the meantime, however, both of DWP’s coal plants continue to contribute significantly to what is fast becoming a changed planet. Global warming is no longer some kind of boogey-man way out there in the future. The climate crisis is here, it’s real, and it is up to us to face it and fix it, or subject ourselves to ever more extreme weather events like: the two Super-Typhoons which have hit Japan in the past two months. Or the freak lightning storm which killed a surfer at Venice Beach. Or the tornado which touched down, not in the Midwest, but in Boston. Or the hundred-year floods which seem to strike the Midwest almost monthly. Or the wildfires burning across California, Oregon and Washington. Or our historic drought which gets worse by the day as we use up our water reserves, with no rain in the current two-year forecast.
Which made it all the harder to swallow last week when DWP brought to the LA City Council Energy & Environment Committee its contract with Staples to provide paper for the bills it sends out to DWP customers on a bi-monthly basis. As we looked into the report, we found that the billing paper is made from 1% recycled paper. Which means 99% virgin paper. Which means trees are cut down to produce paper that is turned into the bills which DWP sends to nearly a million customers across Los Angeles. Which people look at once, rip along the dotted line, and otherwise throw in a file. Single-use.
To make matters worse, DWP will soon begin sending out its bills MONTHLY. Which means the amount of paper used will double. Which means the number of trees which will be toppled will double. And, DWP testified [boasted] in the Committee hearing that other utilities are taking a close look at DWP’s new billing system and considering following their lead. Which means the number of trees being toppled could increase exponentially. Rain Forest Alliance certified or not, these are still trees, which, through the natural process of photosynthesis, absorb the prime greenhouse gas pollutant, CO2, store the carbon and emit pure oxygen. Deforestation undermines this important carbon sink function. It is estimated that 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions are the result of deforestation.
Adding insult to injury, DWP is asking for the City Council to allow an increase the maximum contract limit from $3,456,375 to an amount not to exceed $10,451,419 (budgeted). Approximately 70 percent of the total increase is in anticipation of the additional paper required for monthly billing. LA DWP ratepayers are, in essence, funding deforestation without their knowledge, nor their permission.
When questioned about the paper, DWP said that recycled paper isn’t strong enough for their printing machines and that they spent eight months to find that out. It’s time to let them know that the way they need to do things on a climate-urgent planet is this: DWP should have started out with recycled paper as a requirement and found machines that could use it successfully, rather than vise versa. This type of thinking is, by the way, already embedded in the City’s purchasing policies. Policies to which DWP — only one of two City department holdouts — does not subscribe.
Since 1992, the City of Los Angeles has had a Recycled Products Purchasing Program in place, emphasizing that the City Departments purchase products made of recycled materials. The DWP testified on August 6, 2014, that only 1% of its billing paper includes recycled content. This does not match the spirit, nor the intention of the ordinance.
The program has been updated at various times, including “Buy Recycled 2000” and the establishment of an Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Policy. Recycled paper has been part of the program since the very beginning in 1992.
Reportedly, each City Department, including one of the three proprietaries — the Port of Los Angeles — have adopted the Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Policy. As of today, twenty-two years after Mayor Tom Bradley signed the first ordinance, DWP has not yet adopted the Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Policy. [LAX is the other.]
The Energy & Environment Committee allowed the contract to move forward to the full City Council last week, but it has gnawed at me and my City Councilmember boss to the point where Councilmember Paul Koretz now strongly opposes LADWP’s using this paper. He asks for you to join him in advocating for LADWP to change its bill printing system so that a high percentage recycled paper can be used.
Here’s contact info for the Councilmembers and the Mayor: please call and tell them you oppose Item #10 on the Tuesday, August 19th, City Council agenda: the DWP contract with Staples for billing paper.
1) With its two coal-fired power plants, LADWP has already contributed enormously to the greenhouse gas emissions which are causing the worldwide climate crisis, which is affecting Los Angeles in the form of California’s historic and severe drought.
2) The contract with Staples is essentially for virgin paper which will be used to send bills to over a million customers. This means that, in addition to its coal emissions, DWP is enabling deforestation. This is especially significant because DWP will soon be moving to monthly billing, which means the amount of paper they use will double.
3) DWP testified in Energy & Environment Committee that other utilities from around the country are examining and considering adopting a similar bill-printing system. Which means DWP’s policies will be causing the destruction of even more trees. Despite the fact that DWP reportedly uses Rainforest Alliance-certified paper, there is no way to prevent other utilities from using paper sourced from even more damaging types of deforestation.
4) The City of Los Angeles adopted a Recycled Products Purchasing Policy in 1992, over twenty years ago, requiring City Departments to purchase products — paper included — made from recycled materials. Nearly all of the other City Departments has implemented that policy, including the Port of LA. Why hasn’t DWP, one of the worse contributors to the climate crisis, implemented it as well?
5) I urge Councilmember ____ to oppose Item #10 until such time that DWP redesigns its billing system to adhere to the City’s Environmentally Preferred Purchasing Policy.
Council President Herb Wesson (213) 473-7010
Mayor Garcetti (213) 978-0600 or (213) 978-0721 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Councilmember Gil Cedillo (213) 473-7001
Councilmember Paul Krekorian (213) 473-7002
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield (213) 473-7003
Councilmember Tom LaBonge (213) 473-7004
Councilmember Nury Martinez (213) 473-7006
Councilmember Felipe Fuentes (213) 473-7007
Councilmember Bernard Parks (213) 473-7008
Councilmember Curren Price (213) 473-7009
Councilmember Mike Bonin (213) 473-7011
Councilmember Mitch Englander (213) 473-7012
Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (213) 473-7013
Councilmember Jose Huizar (213) 473-7014
Councilmember Joe Buscaino (213) 473-7015
Here’s where you find out who represents you specifically and additional contact information for all Councilmembers: http://www.lacity.org/government/ElectedOfficialOffices/CityCouncil/CouncilDirectory/index.htm?laCategory=1820
As we’ve seen just in the past week when phone calls helped push Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas to be the final supporting vote to get SB-270, the state plastic bag ban bill, out of Appropriations Committee, strong advocacy works! Your call will make a difference.