(March 11, 2022) –
I am absolutely thrilled to be here in the San Fernando Valley speaking with members of the city’s most influential business advocacy group, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association known far and wide since 1949 by its four-letter acronym, VICA.
You’re the movers and shakers who make The Valley work.
You’re the innovators and job creators.
Through the activity of your businesses, you provide opportunities for residents living in the Valley to support their families and fulfill their California dreams.
For more than a century, Valley businesses have been the backbone of the Greater Los Angeles Area economy ensuring our regional vitality and resilience.
You’ve been the linchpin in some of our nation’s most spectacular achievements.
When Angelenos looked skyward, it was your businesses that helped them soar, break the sound barrier, reach outer space, land on the moon, and return safely. Not to mention the critical contribution to our nation’s common defense that Valley-based businesses have played.
Your bona fides as content creators was firmly established decades before that term was even coined.
Back in the day, we just called it entertainment.
And, right here, in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, you made it an industry. One that continues to grow and shape our culture, and one that provides jobs for hundreds of thousands of creative minds, and trade and craftspeople. An industry that supports a host of related businesses.
So, I salute you this morning and celebrate VICA’s 73rd year as a powerful advocate for your business interests, and today a champion of women’s leadership.
I bring greetings from the more than ten thousand proud employees of your Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and I bring an enthusiastic high-five from my four appointed colleagues serving on the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.
Actually, I need to take just a second here to say more about my Board of Commission colleagues.
It’s important for me to note that for the first time in our city’s two hundred forty-one-year history all of us serving you shaping resource policies and overseeing the $7 billion budget for our nation’s largest municipal utility in our role as Commissioners are women.
When you stop to think about it, that shouldn’t be such a big thing in 2022.
Even back-in-the-day, five females filling the seats of the city’s five DWP commissioners would happen on occasion.
Things are a little different now.
I have the privilege of serving alongside Susana Reyes, a leading environmentalist and DWP retiree; Nicole Nieman Brady, an extraordinary clean energy entrepreneur; Mia Leher, an acclaimed landscape architect; and the Valley’s own Jill Banks Barad-Hopkins.
And like all the women in this audience who’ve worked so hard to achieve their business and career goals. When we take our seats at the table or, in a boardroom, we’re there to make a meaningful difference!
We have a quorum here today, yet another testament to the importance of Valley businesses and VICA.
Today I want to talk with you about something that’s near and dear to all of us: The Future.
Sometimes the future can seem as close as tomorrow morning. Other times, it can appear as far away as those flying cars that we were promised we’d be whirling around town in by now.
One thing we all know is that the future is coming.
We don’t know what it’ll be exactly, but it’s safe to say, we’re getting some strong hints.
Another thing we know is that we all have a role to play, and how we engage that role will determine where we end up.
So, let me talk with you about three things:
(1) What we see today and what it means,
(2) What’s in store for us depending on the decisions we make today, and
(3) How we at your DWP are working to chart a course toward building an even stronger L.A., through service, innovation, and opportunity.
Before I start, let me simply say that I know the absolute last thing anyone in Los Angeles believes when they think about LADWP is that their water and power provider is a soothsayer.
And I have it on very good authority that we retired the use of divining rods eons ago, well, at least before I was appointed to the Board.
Still, we wouldn’t be very good water and power provider if we didn’t look down the road and plan accordingly based on our analysis of facts and trends.
I’m told by our department’s experts that that’s what’s known as strategic thinking. I’m just a lawyer, so I defer to them.
Now that you know that I’m not the expert, but that I’ve been schooled by them, what do we see today from our vantage point at LADWP?
We see that the world’s climate is changing, and those changes aren’t likely to be reversed.
Our best hope is to do everything we can to slow the change or, failing that, we need to figure out how to live in a vastly different world.
I’m not here to argue about the climate crisis. You either believe or you don’t.
But whether you believe in climate change or not, you’ve got to admit that summer temperatures rising to nearly 125 degrees in The Valley aren’t your normal everyday occurrence.
That’s considerably closer to “Death Valley Days” than “The Karate Kid.”
There’s a strong likelihood that the Valley isn’t done seeing excessively, even deadly, triple-digit temperatures for longer periods each summer.
It may be just a matter of years, and that’s whether we proceed aggressively today or not.
Much like residents in Phoenix, people living and working here in the Valley will develop a greater dependence on air conditioning than ever before, well into Fall and again in early Spring.
At a minimum, the cost of doing business and the cost of simply living comfortably in the Valley could test people’s economic pain threshold and disrupt everyday activities in meaningful ways.
What else do we see? eBay is a good place to sell your ski and snowboarding gear.
I know, that sounds like a joke. And today, it’s probably worth a chuckle.
But, we’re already seeing fewer winter storms. Fewer L.A. rain cycles and less frequent Sierra snow days have caused dramatically lower snowpack. And you know what that means no snowpack, no water.
When there’s a lot less water, we all have bigger problems. We’re in the Valley, so you know that. Without reliable and affordable water supplies, life-altering change becomes the order of the day.
I’m not just talking about brown, dried-out lawns and withered decorative landscaping.
Does anyone here remember the 1973 oil embargo?
It triggered an odd-even gasoline rationing program here in the U.S. because gas to power automobiles and trucks had become a limited resource.
Even with rationing, you had to endure long lines to fill up your tank. Now imagine that same scenario with water.
We already endure some water rationing from the Federal and the State Water Project. But what if it became a whole lot worse?
High heat melts our Sierra Nevada snowpack earlier each year.
Lower water supplies due to fewer rainy days and less snow coupled with greater evaporation reduce our water supplies even more.
The water conservation restrictions that may need to be implemented under a worst-case scenario would, today, be regarded as Draconian.
In fact, but for the miraculously rainy December we had this year, L.A. would have had to limit outdoor watering to only one day a week.
Right now, we’re seeing these changes occur in slow motion.
Yes, there’s a little snow in our local mountains, but the day before Super Bowl Sunday, the high temperature nearly hit 90 degrees. How many upper-80-degree early February days do you remember from your childhood?
I’ll bet not many if any at all.
Experts now say we’re experiencing the most persistent drought in 1,200 years – and we just had the driest January and February in California in recorded history.
You can choose to believe climate scientists or not.
I’ll only say that the rainwater cistern you’ve been thinking about buying and installing at your home could turn out to be a good investment.
I’m a lawyer, so full disclosure, I’m not providing financial advice or offering a prospectus on future investment opportunities.
I’m only here to tell you what we see at the Department and what we’re planning to do about what we see.
So, we know the climate is changing and we know that reversing the effects of climate change are likely not in the offing.
But there’s a lot we can do!
At LADWP, we’re doing everything in our power to keep life in sunny Southern California and our great City of Los Angeles livable and thriving.
So, let me talk about some of the innovative and necessary things we’re up to.
On the waterfront, we’re expanding our local water supplies.
What does that mean in basic terms?
It means we are investing heavily in reducing our reliance on expensive, imported water from the Metropolitan Water District, and, at the same time, we’re preserving what remains of our historical supply from the Eastern Sierra delivered through our own L.A. Aqueduct.
Locally – and especially here in the Valley – we’re focused on becoming “water strong” by building resilient, sustainable local water supplies.
How will we do that?
Through an aggressive program of groundwater recharge, stormwater capture, more conservation, maximizing water recycling, and developing a new, innovative local water source using purified recycled water.
We call our plan to deliver purified recycled water, Operation NEXT.
Operation NEXT is a new initiative being developed by LADWP in partnership with L.A. Sanitation based on the premise that ALL water is recycled, whether it be by mother nature through the water lifecycle, or by the outstanding engineers and water treatment operators we’ve employed for over 100 years.
Operation NEXT is our key strategy for sourcing of up to 70% of L.A.’s water locally by 2045.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Our water future sounds a little gross.’
Isn’t that toilet-to-tap? Think about it as “showers-to-flowers,” an important innovation whose time has come.
Our partnership will use state-of-the-art, proven technology that’s in use elsewhere in the world and right next door in Orange County to improve our overall water supply resiliency and reliability.
Keep track of our progress on Operation NEXT. I promise you’ll be amazed at the things we know we can do.
On the power front, as you may have heard, we’re going carbon-free.
Sustainability is more than our watchword, it’s our guiding principle.
We can’t keep doing the things we did in past decades that contribute to the warming of our planet. Unless, of course, we’re all prepared to suffer the consequences.
I don’t know about you, but the word “consequences” always has a bad ring to it to me. You rarely hear people talking about “good consequences.”
So, what are we up to? We established an overall sustainability goal of providing 100% carbon-free energy.
How are we getting there? We’re expanding rooftop solar in our L.A. basin. We’re creating a zero-carbon grid.
We’re expanding electrification of our transportation sector and our city’s building supply. We’re increasing energy efficiency across the board.
In 2021, LADWP delivered 37% of all electricity to our customers from renewable resources like wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric power.
When you combine that with our other carbon-free source, plus the massive wind project we invested in that recently became operational in New Mexico our power generation is over sixty percent carbon-free!
Now, that’s progress that you can believe in, the progress you can depend on and progress you can see.
All you need to do is flip on a light switch in your home, office, and warehouse to know these renewable energy sources are reliable. Most of all, they’re clean sources of energy. And – say it with me – they’re sustainable!
We worked with the U.S. Department of Energy and local stakeholders – including VICA – to prove Los Angeles can achieve 100% renewable power by 2035.
That’s not some pipe dream, you’re helping us do it.
We’ve cut greenhouse gas emissions and achieved our City’s 2030 carbon footprint goal 14-years ahead of schedule.
Our city ranks as the No. 1 Solar City in the U.S. That’s not a ‘one-off’ status. We’ve been the Number One Solar City in America for 3-years-in-a-row!
We have enough installed solar to power 134,000 homes.
Let me put that into terms that I think every resident of the Valley will appreciate – It’s equivalent to taking more than sixty thousand gas-burning vehicles off L.A.’s freeways.
In the mid-to-late 1950s, the “all-electric home” was envisioned and commercially marketed as our futuristic ideal.
Now, after more than 70-years, we seem to be fast approaching that vision of home energy use.
But what we didn’t know in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s is that we’d need to use major electric appliances and home cooling-and-heating systems to protect our planet and preserve our way of life as we know it.
It’s a lot to process in our brief time together.
It’s also a lot to do.
On that note, let me change the subject for a brief moment.
In the spirit of this leadership breakfast, I want to acknowledge the women at your Department of Water and Power who are quite literally leading way on our numerous resource initiatives, innovations, and so much more.
They are our engineers, electric station operators, water quality inspectors, electrical mechanics, chemists, and customer service representatives. They run our water engineering and technical services division and our EV infrastructure and new power business division. They are our CFO, Chief Sustainability Officer, DEI Officer, Retirement Board Chairwoman, Senior Assistant General Manager of our power system, and they are at the forefront of transforming our city.
I’m inspired by their commitment, their dedication, their determination, and their service to you and our city. We are also joined by representatives from our Department’s union partners IBEW Local 18 they’re highly valued contributors to all we do and I am grateful for their leadership, as well.
The hard truth is, our workforce at your Department is only 25% female, an embarrassing statistic I want to assure you we are addressing.
Meanwhile, I don’t get to do this often in such a public setting, so will you please join me in saying thank you to the pioneering women of LADWP and IBEW who’ve joined us here today.
Ladies, please stand for a moment of acknowledgment.
My colleagues on the LADWP Board of Commissioners are proud of the progress we’ve made on the water and power front. But there still is much to do and I have every confidence that, with your support, your Department will get it done.
Before I close, let me say a little bit about another critical component of our work equity.
Equitable. The dictionary says the word means “fair and impartial.”
Sometimes people hear that word and think, “They’re not talking about me and my needs. They’re talking about what they are going to do for somebody else.”
I can tell you this – as long as I’m heading up the LADWP Board of Commissioners, equity in all of its manifestations will mean, among other things:
“The Valley – it’s residents and its business community – won’t be left out or left behind or otherwise unfairly burdened by our city’s transition to clean energy and a more resilient local water supply.
One critical aspect of our water and power supply transformation is our need to ensure all of our customers have affordable access, regardless of size or location.
We know lives and livelihoods depend on it.
You can see the importance of this by how LADWP responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has been hard on all of us – but it has been especially hard on those who have the least… who had to work the hardest to make ends meet, and who were often at the greatest public health risk.
Your LADWP stepped up during the pandemic.
We distributed $33 million in assistance in 2020 to 66,000 of our customers.We enacted a two-year moratorium on utility shutoffs, the longest in the nation, for residential and business customers unable to pay their bills and we helped connect our customers with other rental and utility assistance programs.
We’ve just finished crediting $275 million in additional relief funds to nearly 300,000 of our customers, many of them right here in the Valley – and we’ll apply even more relief funds soon to bring the total to over $300 million.
We’re not done yet.
We’ve made it easier than ever to enroll in our new EZ-SAVE low-income discount program, and we’re offering extended repayment plans that stretch to up to FOUR years for the hardest hit Angelenos.
Our goal is to provide the assistance and flexibility to ensure that every customer can manage their LADWP bill better, and access assistance when they need it.
This is the value of having a public-owned utility.
We exist BECAUSE OF and FOR our customers and there really is no better time to demonstrate our commitment to the people we serve than when they need our help the most.
These were urgent needs that we dealt with in real-time.
But, I promise you, we never, not for one minute during the two years of our global pandemic, took our eyes off your future needs.
We have more work to do on the social equity front. The importance of diversity, inclusion, and not leaving any community behind, will be an enduring legacy of our current all-female Board of Commissioners, and one that I am especially proud of.
So, with that, thank you for allowing me to share some thoughts with you today.
Our future together is bright. Our future remains very much rooted in our relationship with the Valley and Valley businesses. You’re a big part of what we do, why we do it, and who we serve. That’s never lost on us at your Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
We know VICA will remain a strong influence on how we build and maintain a livable future for Los Angeles; a future that our children and their children can enjoy, and that establishes an enduring model of progress that cities in the U.S. – and frankly around the globe – can observe and emulate.
I’m a lifelong Angeleno, and while I may not be able to tout my status as a “Valley Girl,” as a number of your speakers today, I’m quite clear about one thing:
Valley Girls and VICA Rock!