Many of us in Half Moon Bay support the pursuit of equity and diversity, important pillars of our local persona, both of which will take an unnecessary hit should the City Council approve its proposed “electrification ordinance” without an exception for local agricultural businesses and certain households of need. As evidenced by recent community conversation, acceleration of electrification imposes pocketbook penalties for those who can least afford it. Hopefully, the City Council can find a way to make these acceleration costs more equitable and cost friendly.
The economic damage doesn’t stop there. The front-end costs are also dramatic for local agricultural businesses and commercial greenhouses. The ordinance requires prompt and costly retrofit or replacement of existing equipment. As a result, the City Council places local businesses at a competitive disadvantage since no other businesses in the region will face the early cost penalty this ordinance enforces.
Transitioning local and state economies from fossil fuels is a worthwhile journey that takes time and prudence. The state understands this which is why it is statutorily providing all California businesses and residents the next 20 years to achieve 100 percent electrification. Our local businesses need and deserve the time allowed to all others by state law and to be fair, the City Council should exempt these employers from this premature quest.
Simply stated, acceleration applied unilaterally to all constituents and businesses imposes avoidable inequities and is unfair. If the electrification ordinance is approved by the City Council as is, it will cost jobs and impact hundreds of minority workers essentially effectuating a discriminatory set of policies.
Why does the acceleration ordinance hurt the city of Half Moon Bay?
In our small town, the largest agricultural employer, Rocket Farms employs 165 contract and direct employees and has a 1.5-million-square-foot industrial facility which houses those important jobs. Rocket Farms has already stated the cost to electrify now is over $8 million and that rushed implementation will place Rocket Farms viability as a business in jeopardy. Beyond the business risk, is the loss of many of these jobs. If given the transition time allowed by the state, it is likely that Rocket Farms can save most if not all these workers from economic dislocation.
How does the proposed City Council acceleration ordinance impact local diversity?
The majority of jobs that will be lost by accelerating electrification are filled by minority workers.
As a minority-owned business, with an 82 percent minority-operated workforce, Rocket Farms celebrates the women, Hispanic and Asian people who make up its staff. Rocket Farms is a member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the gold standard for Ethnic Minority Business Certification in the United States.
COVID-19 took its toll on our local agricultural industry. This preemptive act by the City Council, if approved, will make matters worse at time where the industry can least afford it. These negative consequences can easily be avoided if the City Council acts prudently. So please help by letting them know what we expect of them.
Ask the council to support exempting agriculture, including commercial greenhouses and those households in need, from the proposed electrification ordinance. Without this exemption, our City Council will be implementing an ordinance that threatens the livelihood of locally owned businesses causing the unnecessary loss of local jobs held primarily by the minority workforce.
Let the City Council know that members can still accomplish acceleration without these devastating impacts. They need to hear from you. Please attend and speak at the livestreamed meeting to oppose the second reading of the proposed ordinance at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7.
Charles Kosmont is the chairman of Rocket Farms, which operates in Half Moon Bay. Due to incorrect information from the company, an earlier version misstated his title.