It seems almost like yesterday: Just over a decade ago, California was caught in an electricity market meltdown prompted by deregulation, and a number of power companies were accused of gouging the state. Now, ironically, one of those companies is poised to become a dominant player in the state's electric car-charging business.
From the Chronicle's Matier & Ross: "NRG Energy, a successor to Dynegy Inc., was one of a handful of companies accused by state regulators of overcharging Californians by almost $9 billion in 2000 and 2001 as part of the energy crisis that would fuel the recall of Gov. Gray Davis."
"After years of legal wrangling, NRG agreed to a $120 million settlement with the state Public Utilities Commission. And while NRG will refund $20 million to ratepayers, the settlement calls for the bulk of the money - nearly $100 million - to be spent setting up 200 electric car quick-charging stations around the state and wiring at least 1,000 apartment houses, hospitals and other buildings to handle plug-in chargers."
"The deal also gives NRG exclusive rights to sell electricity at those sites for 18 months. In other words, the company gets to use $100 million of the settlement for overcharging customers to go into the electric-car station business - a deal that competitors, despite being heavily subsidized by government grants, say will leave them in the dust."
A spectacular stretch of the Northern California coast -- actually, most of the north state's coast is pretty spectacular -- has been given permanent protection from development, under a deal approvedre this week by the California Coastal Commission.
From the LAT's Tony Barboza in the Washington Post: "The coastal panel’s unanimous vote at a meeting Thursday in Ventura, Calif., protects seven miles of coastline that had been one of the three largest pieces of private coastal property between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Mexican border, according to the agency."
"The 10-square-mile expanse, former Spanish land grants that were acquired by Swiss farming families in the 1860s, was purchased by the Trust For Public Land in 1998 as rumors swirled that developers had plans to build homes on the land."
“This is important, an incredible part of the Central California coast that’s going to be retained in the form it was years and years ago,” said Dan Carl, the commission’s Central Coast District director. “It’s something you don’t see a lot in California as development moves and marches forward.”
Legislation backed by a coalition of the nation's top communications firms is developing in the Capitol in what critics contend is an attempt to strip the Public Utilities Commission of key authority over internet-driven voice communications.
From the LAT's Marc LIfsher: "Proponents argue that a new law, SB 1161, is needed to reaffirm California government's generally hands-off stance toward "an open and competitive Internet."
"Passage of the bill, similar to laws in 24 other states, would "ensure that California does not lose its position among the states as epicenter of the global Internet economy," according to a fact sheet issued by coauthor Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee."
"But opponents contend that the proposed law is really about letting carriers get around a mandate to provide phone service to rural communities as well as requiring carriers to provide cheaper rates for low-income customers and subsidized phones and other special equipment to the disabled."
The Oracle vs. Google courtroom battle begins today, and on the bench is 13-year veteran U.S. District Judge William Alsup, a Harvard-trained, 68-year-old mountain hiker who runs a tight court.
From the Mercury News' Howard Mintz: "Alsup would not discuss the Oracle-Google clash, in which a jury will consider Oracle's claims that the search giant's Android mobile phone technology infringes on its patents. But he downplayed the suggestion that overseeing such a big case may change his courtroom style."
"It probably affects me some," said Alsup, his Mississippi upbringing still flavoring his words. "But, really, in most ways, no."
"In fact, he has thus far been vintage Alsup in the Oracle-Google case, often coming up with novel ways to shape such an epic trial. At one point, he took the unusual step of enlisting an independent expert to evaluate the damages at stake after questioning Oracle's estimates."
And from our "Here Comes the Judge" file comes the tale of Dmitri Krioukov, a university physicist, who used his academic training to beat a $400 traffic fine.
"(He) was issued a traffic ticket for failing to completely stop at a stop sign. Instead of paying the ticket or going to traffic school, the physicist fought the citation by writing a four-page paper explaining how the ticket he was given defies physics."
"Using his knowledge of angular and linear motion, Krioukov prepared a paper for the judge in his case and was able to argue – and prove – his innocence."
"The paper explained how what the officer “thought” he saw, he didn’t really see, according to the laws of physics."
Where do I sign up for this guy's class?....