Will Arizona cut power to L.A. over immigration law boycott?

a power tower with power lines in perspective view

Arizona has threatened to cut power it supplies to Los Angeles after the city voted to boycott the Grand Canyon state in protest of its immigration law. Flickr photo.

The Arizona immigration law is a personal affront to people of Hispanic descent across the nation. To make a political statement, the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott the state of Arizona and Arizona based businesses. In response to the Los Angeles boycott, the commissioner of Arizona’s electric and water utilities threatened to cut off the electricity supplied to the Los Angeles power grid by Arizona power plants.

Boycott Arizona goes nationwide

The Arizona immigration law has motivated other cities with large Hispanic populations to deprive Arizona of cash now, including San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland. In Seattle, not known as a center of Hispanic culture, the city council approved a similar boycott May 18. Many organizations nationwide have also canceled conventions in Arizona. Type “boycott Arizona” in Google and you get The National Council of La Raza homepage, inviting institutions nationwide to join the NCLR in their boycott of Arizona.  But the Los Angeles boycott is the first so far to result in a game of tit for tat over a law many think encourages racial profiling and violates civil rights.

Starving the Los Angeles power grid

Following the Los Angeles boycott, the Arizona Corporation Commission, which administrates the state’s electric and water utilities, raised the idea of pulling the plug on Los Angeles. CNNMoney.com reports that Arizona’s power plants supply electricity to 25 percent of the Los Angeles power grid. In a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce wrote that “If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands.”

Los Angeles boycott adds up to millions

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 to bar the city from conducting business with Arizona unless the Arizona immigration law, which will take effect in July, is repealed. MSNBC reports that the vote followed an emotional council discussion during which many members noted that their ancestors were U.S. immigrants. The stakes aren’t exactly small potatoes. Los Angeles has investments and contracts in Arizona worth as much as $58 million. Most of the dollars involve airport, port and energy service that can’t lawfully be affected by the boycott. That leaves about $7.7 million in city contracts that could possibly be put into play. Some of those contracts include helicopter services, Taser guns, waste management, engineering and surveillance equipment.

Will Arizona really cut power to Los Angeles?

Will Arizona really cut power to Los Angeles? John LeSueur, a spokesman for Pierce, downplayed the threatening nature of the letter. He said the commission itself does not have the authority for Arizona to cut power to Los Angeles. “It’s not a threat,” he told CNNMoney.com. “It’s just pointing out the ramification of what L.A.’s threat would be on the boycott. If they carry out their threat to boycott Arizona, that includes 25 percent of their power.” LeSueur pointed out that Los Angeles has partial ownership in two of the Arizona power plants, including a 5.7 percent stake in the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, and a 21 percent stake in the Navajo Generation Station on a Navajo reservation.

Arizona boycott could hurt Hispanics

The economic impact of the Arizona immigration law could be substantial. Fox News reports that Phoenix officials say their city could lose up to $90 million in the next five years over the protests. The figure represents not just lost convention and hotel fees but other money tourists would otherwise spend in the city. In a twist of irony, Hispanics make up a major portion of Arizona’s hospitality and service workforce. With city governments and organizations pulling the plug on travel and conventions in Arizona, state officials point out that Hispanic workers have the most to lose.

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