By Kevin Harris
The Thousand Oaks City Council approved our water and wastewater financial plans and water cost studies for calendar years 2022 and 2023, setting the stage for a December 14th, 2021 public hearing for final rate adoption. Also during Tuesday night’s meeting, local residents debated environmental issues such as the Huntington Beach oil spill, and the proposed “all electric” mandate for new local structures, via the video and audio call-in format.
As with prior meetings, Tuesday’s City Council meeting was a video teleconference, and was physically closed to the public due to covid restrictions.
Item 10. Department Reports
Item 10-C: Water/Wastewater Financial Plans & Proposed Rate Adjustments
With a presentation given by Revenue Operations Manager Sheri Johnson, the city detailed projected expenditures, proposed base and tiered rates, and key findings from their preliminary studies related to local water and wastewater issues. In short, the forecast is for a 1% rate adjustment per year for water rates for the next two years, and a 3% rate adjustment per year for wastewater rates for the next two years.
As you can see by the following rate comparisons, however, Thousand Oaks wastewater rates are already among the lowest in the Conejo Valley, while Thousand Oaks water rates are only a few dollars above the average for Conejo Valley cities, according to Council Member Al Adam.
If the new rates are adopted during the December 14th Public Hearing, the water rates will go into effect March 1, 2022, and January 1, 2023, while the wastewater rates will go into effect July, 2022, and July, 2023.
The City Council voted unanimously to approve the water financial plans and the cost of service study.
Item 6. Public Comments
Earlier during the meeting, members of the public had their chance to call in to discuss what is on their minds. As is often the case in Thousand Oaks, environmental issues featured heavily on this night, especially with two major issues coinciding close to meeting time; The Huntington Beach oil spill, and the Conejo Climate Coalition – the local wing of a broader “green” group called the Greenhouse Gas Coalition, asking the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to end gas hookups in new construction.
Following is a balanced representation of the callers who participated during the session.
Kat Selma: Thousand Oaks resident and a conservation and open space professional. Talked about the Huntington Beach oil spill. Said she never understood the personal impacts of such an oil spill growing up, because she was raised in Appalachia, but that the evidence for the HB oil spill was very much “in your face,” she said. “Dead birds and fish, destruction of wetland habitats, closed beaches and a depressed tourism economy are just some of the obvious impacts.”
She also warned that this could be a story of Ventura County, as “there are still 14 active oil platforms off the coast of Southern California.” Ms. Selma also offered her solution to the oil spill problem. “We don’t have to rely on these leaky, dangerous and explosive energy sources anymore. Oil and gas are not getting any cheaper, and that’s simply because we found all the easy stuff. It only gets harder, more dangerous and expensive to extract oil and gas. Clean energy like wind and solar come down in price as we quickly and steadily transition to them.” She said she’d feel better if our coastline was dotted with offshore wind platforms instead of oil platforms.
Brad Potit: Thousand Oaks resident. Spoke against the Greenhouse Gas Coalition, in particular against the “all electric” mandate for all new construction and restoration in the city. Said that the primary influence for Climate Change fears was Al Gore’s 2006 movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and that the predictions made in it were based on flawed computer models. He also said that Earth’s environment is not static, and that we’re now in a heating stage.
Dan Scully: (audio only). Mr. Scully also talked about the Greenhouse Gas Coalition’s request for an all electric mandate. “I feel this proposal is extreme, and lacks the accurate data and science to support such a measure.”
He said that American homes produce very little greenhouse gasses, and urged the council to support a balanced approach to energy that includes natural gas and electricity.
Richard Winston: Newbury Park resident. Spoke against the Greenhouse Gas Coalition’s proposal. He warned that mandating new homes be all electric will raise the cost of those homes, and of living in them. “Current homes are expensive enough that people are leaving the state to find an affordable place to live.”
“The proposal means more government, more regulation, more big brother, less freedom for the citizens of Thousand Oaks, and what’s worse, it won’t accomplish what they claim it will,” he said.
Glen Foltz: Thousand Oaks resident. Member of the Conejo Climate Coalition. Said the primary cause of our climate crisis is our “unnecessary dependance on fossil fuels.” After describing the details of the recent Huntington Beach oil spill, Mr. Folts said, “California has suffered 40 significant pipeline incidents a year, on average, since 1986,” and he continued with other related statistics. He then added the following local stat: “Ventura County’s average temperature has increased 4.7 degrees since 1895, making ours the fastest warming county in the continental U.S.”
Mr. Foltz pointed out that while the World Health Organization calls Climate Change “The single biggest health threat facing humanity,” while at the same time the world subsidizes fossil fuels by $11 million a minute.
The next Thousand Oaks City Council meeting will be on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, at 6:00 PM. The URL to watch the meetings back and to download a meeting agenda is https://toaks.primegov.com/public/portal.
Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists, and having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also an author and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks.