How Your Water Bill Ended Up Paying For Electricity For Northern California Cities

How did Southern California water ratepayers end up indirectly paying for geothermal electricity for northern California cities is a story that has never been told in the media.

In the late 1970’s then Governor Jerry Brown planned a “Green” legacy for when he left office in 1983 of two geothermal power plants in northern California. After leaving office, Brown ran for U.S. President.

In 1985 one of the plants, the Bottle Rock Geothermal Plant, was completed. It operated just five years until 1990 and then was shut down for lack of sufficient steam power to make the payments on the revenue bonds on the plant. The plant became a “ghost plant.” But who was going to pay the $283 million in unpaid bonds on the plant?

Curiously, in 1985 Jerry Brown’s campaign manager went to work as a Vice President at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Without any public hearing or newspaper coverage, MWD started paying the bonds off on the plant. It wasn’t until 1993 that the L.A. Times blew the whistle that Southern California water ratepayers were paying off the over a quarter of a billion dollars of bonds on the plant. But that wasn’t the worse part of the unfolding story.

About 2001 the Bottle Rock Power Plant was sold to a series of private investors. But Southern California water ratepayers still were paying off the bonds on the plant.

In 2003, a 30-mile long sewer pipeline called the Geysers Pipeline was completed at a cost of $250 million which dumped treated sewer water from the City of Santa Rosa into the Geysers Geothermal Field to revive the steampower of the many geothermal plants in that area, including the Bottle Rock Power Plant. In 2006 the Bottle Rock Power Plant was re-opened and is generating electricity for northern California cities, subsidized by the water rates of Southern Californians. The MWD doesn’t even get any of the power from the plant to pump water to Southern California. Read how your water bill includes payments on a $283 million “green power” plant in northern California that you receive no benefit from.

Will the political legacy of this power plant have any influence on the election of Jerry Brown who is running for his third term for Governor? Will this story have any influence on the passage of Prop 23 which is a ballot initiative to suspend implementation of California’s “Green Power” law beginning in 2012? For the full story go to: