Bee hatch

California heat wave: Republicans attack Governor Newsom

Faced with a historic heat wave that lasted nine days and put unprecedented pressure on California’s power grid, the country’s most populous state managed to avoid blackouts.

It would look like a success. But Republican lawmakers and organizations still found reason to attack Governor Gavin Newsom and the liberal state of California.

They took issue with Newsom asking Californians to limit electric vehicle charging times. They criticized the state’s network operator, the California Independent System Operator, for issuing flexible alerts that urged voluntary conservation during peak hours. They even stalked Newsom for wear a long-sleeved jacket during a recorded briefing.

Wednesday, a campaign Twitter account for Florida Governor Ron Desantis posted a video of him aiming at the power struggles in California.

“I hear a lot of people talking about Florida from California. They’re so worried about Florida. They can’t even keep the power going in California, are you kidding me?” Desantis said in the video.

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, a QAnon conspiracy theorist and a believer that Donald Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 election, called DeSantis an “American Governor” on Twitter and wrote that he should “fix this disaster”.

“Apparently it’s too hot in California to [Newsom] to keep its energy grid functioning properly,” she wrote.

California has long been a target for conservatives. Their disdain for its progressive politics drives efforts to portray it as a drug- and crime-ridden welfare state that citizens cannot escape quickly enough. Newsom has become increasingly outspoken against fellow governors in red states, like DeSantis, and the chatter around his presidential aspirations has only broadened the target.

But Friday morning most of the lights in California were still on and the worst case scenario – millions of vulnerable residents in grave danger if the power was cut amid scorching temperatures – never happened.

Anthony York, the governor’s senior communications adviser, called the criticism “right-wing nonsense.”

“It’s not like he turned the corner and fled to Cancun like we saw in Texas when the grid went down and hundreds of people died,” York said. in an interview, referring to US Senator Ted Cruz’s decision to flee Texas for Mexico. devastating winter storms of 2021.

“It distracts from the real problem: climate change and our reliance on fossil fuels,” York added.

About half a dozen towns in the Bay Area and northern California lost power Tuesday night due to what was described as miscommunication when the state’s grid operator asked utility companies to prepare for potential rotating outages. Officials were able to prevent such a move.

A decision by Newsom to ping the cellphones of millions of residents and visitors across the Golden State has been credited with helping to avert such widespread disruption.

At around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday evening, as electricity consumption hit an all-time high and the California grid operator warned that demand was about to outstrip supply, the California Office of Emergency Services sent out an alert urging Californians to conserve energy by turning off or reducing non-essential power “if health permits”.

It was a measure taken only twice before: in 2020 for Covid-19 stay-at-home orders and in 2017 for extreme fire risk in Southern California.

Within 45 minutes, electricity demand dropped by around 2,600 megawatts, enough to power nearly 2 million homes.

York said the response from Californians who turned off appliances and turned up their thermostats was “beyond our wildest expectations.”

Ahmed Banafa, an engineering professor at San Jose State, said he considers the state’s response to the heat wave, including its communications strategies, “a success.”

“It does not belong to one person or entity but to all Californians who stepped up and decided to put electricity back on the grid,” he said, warning that there was still some work to do to make the California power grid. more resistant to extreme weather events.

Meanwhile, Republican party members continue to equate the alert with COVID-19 lockdowns and government excesses.

Energy conservation efforts have been ‘ruined by force’, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote on Twitter. Andy Biggs, Congressman from Arizona called the conservation effort a “climate change lockdown”.

“It’s about control (again),” Biggs wrote on Twitter.

Republican Assemblyman and congressional candidate Kevin Kiley called the OES alert “frenzied emergency text telling everyone to stop using power.” His chief of staff and assembly candidate, Josh Hoover, said the alert was “a direct result of poor leadership”.

Jessica Millan Patterson, chairwoman of the California Republican Party, said California looked like a “third world country”.

Mike Madrid, GOP consultant and co-founder of The Lincoln Project, said there will always be a “broad swath” of the Republican Party willing to push back against government mandates or even their suggestions, like the recommendations made in the flexible alerts. .

“[Energy] conservation is about having a common goal and acting together – they’ll react to that and call it tyranny, they’ll call it coercion… it’s a total bastardization of the concept of freedom,” he said . “And that’s a total rejection of social progress.”

This story was originally published September 9, 2022 06:00.

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Maggie Angst covers California politics and Governor Gavin Newsom for The Sacramento Bee. Prior to joining the Bee’s Capitol Bureau, she worked for the Mercury News and the East Bay Times where she covered San Jose City Hall and later wrote corporate articles on the breaking news team. .