CALIFORNIANS fault Bush energy proposal

Friday, May 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ President Bush's national energy plan received an icy reception from Gov. Gray Davis and other government officials who believe the proposal does little to ease the power crisis that has gripped California.

Davis sharply criticized the plan, accusing the administration of ``turning a blind eye to the bleeding and hemorrhaging that exists in this state.''

Bush said he is committed to helping California with its power crisis, but warned that the state is previewing the energy troubles the nation could face if it doesn't boost its power supply and cut demand. His plan includes a pledge to speed up power plant permits and conserve at federal facilities.

``Californians are learning, regrettably, that sometimes when you flick on the light switch, the light does not come on at any price,'' Bush said.

Davis, a Democrat, repeated his plea that the government impose caps on wholesale energy prices that he says have driven the state's largest investor-owned utility into bankruptcy and two others to the brink of collapse.

California has been struck by six days of rolling blackouts since January, and officials predict more as temperatures rise this summer. Customers of the state's two largest private utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Southern California Edison, will see unprecedented rate increases soon.

Some consumers believe Bush is out of touch with their concerns as they brace for higher rates.

``I don't really think he has my concerns as his priority,'' said Jodi Reynolds, a Culver City legal secretary. ``I can already see that I need to conserve energy. I don't need the president to tell me that.''

That theme ran through some of the comments by the state's environmental and consumer groups.

``In the last energy crisis, a handful of nations in the Middle East had us over a barrel,'' said Harvey Rosenfield, head of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica. ``Now it's a handful of energy companies in the southern United States. The only solution is to bust the Texas-based OPEC.''

Perhaps predictably, state Democrats found little to like in Bush's plan, while Republicans found much to praise.

``The president's plan will help California this summer by expediting new power plants and ordering state agencies to conserve,'' said state Rep. Randy Cunningham, a Republican.

``There's nothing in there for California. Nothing,'' said Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat. ``The headline is: Bush to California, drop dead.''