Friday, October 3, 2008

The Legislature's Grand Plan

Food For Thought 10-2-08

Hi friends, this is Harry Blalock; General Manager for radio stations KZMI & KCNM. It’s that time once again to take a look at the issues of the week, and to offer some Food For Thought.

I’ve had some people criticize me recently for never looking at the positive side of things, and just pointing out the negative. Well, I’ve decided to remedy that today and share some good news with you. I’m sure you will be thrilled to know that our legislature has come up with a plan for Commonwealth Utilities Corporation. And I think I can say with a certain amount of certainty that they must have done their homework ahead of time and spent a lot of time putting together a fool proof plan. Now you may be thinking that I’ve finally lost it, or that I went too deep while diving a few too many times, or maybe that I was in a car accident and got thrown through the windshield head first into a taotaomona tree. But before you draw any hasty conclusions, hear me out here and see if you don’t have to agree with my logic.

Our legislature came up with a bill to privatize CUC, and they managed to do it without any outside help, advice, expertise or public hearings. Now it’s not that they didn’t have people coming to them offering to help. It is my understanding that Simon Sanchez from Guam and some of his colleagues from Guam Power Authority came over to talk to them, and share what they did on Guam, and even offered to help them with putting together a plan and helping out in the bidding process. They even offered some input on the privatization bill that the legislature was considering, telling them how to avoid certain pitfalls that were obvious in the legislation, like the $250 million price tag. Our legislative geniuses said “thanks, but no thanks”. Well, I’m assuming they said thanks first, but maybe not, maybe they just said no thanks.

One of the things I found most interesting in Simon Sanchez’s talk to the Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday was the comment that if we switched over to generators that burned heavy oil, or RFO, residual fuel oil, we would save enough money in one year to not only pay for all the new generators, but that we’d even have a savings of $30 million in the first year alone. Could I possibly have heard that right? We would save enough money to buy brand new generators, and pay for them in the first year through fuel savings over what we are spending now, and still have an additional savings of $30 million? Did you know that even with the escalating price of fuel, Guam is still only paying .25 cents a kilowatt hour? I don’t know about you, but this information makes me really excited to see just how amazing our legislatures plan must be! I mean it’s got to be much better than what Guam is doing right? Otherwise it would be a no brainer to not go with their recommendation and save $30 million the first year and have brand spanking new generators. And evidently, our legislature has a better plan than burning heavy oil, as there was no stipulation that whatever company won the bid would convert to burning heavy oil to save us money. I sure hope that part of their plan wasn’t based on geckos farting out money – that was just a fairy tale, did they not get that?

The Governor didn’t like this privatization bill, and vetoed it claiming that the $250 million purchase price would simply be passed along to consumers, and would result in even higher power rates than we’re currently experiencing. He also didn’t like the fact that it reinstated another autonomous board to oversee the utility company. But the legislature, this bunch of financial and power generation experts decided they knew better than the Governor, and overrode his veto. They didn’t care that the $250 million dollar purchase price would raise your rates; all they cared about was getting some money to be able to appropriate to such things as fishing derbies, additional baseball fields they could name after relatives, and countless other projects that would ensure their re-election once again. So obviously there must be something that we’re all missing here and that only the legislature is privy to, that’s the only thing that makes any sense. Surely they wouldn’t sell us all out and make us all pay higher rates just so they’d have more money to play with, would they? No, I have to believe that’s simply not possible, they were elected to represent us, and I’m sure that is primarily what motivates them and dictates their decisions.

And another thing that convinces me that the legislature must have a very good plan and not need anybody else’s help is the fact that when Nick Pula, from the Office of Insular Affairs was here last week, he told the legislature that they should probably rethink their override of the Governor’s veto if they really wanted financial assistance from the Interior Department to pay for the overhauls of engines 7 & 5. Now it is my understanding that he didn’t come right out and say, if you override the Governor’s veto of that bill, you can kiss any money from us to overhaul those engines goodbye. He was trying to be diplomatically correct and drop hints, letting them know that they needed to read between the lines, and that time was running out, and they’d better have a very good, plausible plan if they wanted any financial help. So I guess we have to either assume that these guys are not so good at reading between the lines, if they can indeed read at all, or that they got the message, but were sending a message of their own back to Washington. That message would be, “keep your money, we don’t need it anyway, we’ve got a better plan!” So again, while some might be worried about sending that kind of a message to Washington, I’m not worried at all, I know it means that our legislators must have a much better plan, and we truly don’t need any financial help from Washington. I sure hope that they’ve told Tony Muna their plan though, because last I knew, he was still counting on that money from the Department of the Interior to overhaul engines 7&5. I hope their plan isn’t really counting on mouse powered power generation plants, that was just a fairy tale. It wasn’t meant to be used as the new blueprint for privatization of CUC; surely they knew that, right? So thanks for the trip out here Mr. Pula, and thanks for patting us all on the back and congratulating us, but we don’t need your money, really. Well, at least we don’t think we need your money. Wait, should someone go and check with Tony Muna first? Nah, what am I thinking, our financial wizards and power plant experts in the legislature have things completely under control, they know exactly what they’re doing.

Well, this privatization plan must be an impressive one if it means we can finally stand on our own two feet and thumb our noses at the federal government. And one of the most impressive aspects of it is that we can count on it being not only bid out and awarded with no objections filed, but that we can count on the new company coming in and having new generators to replace the Aggreko generators in less than one year, when the Aggreko contract expires. That’s definitely an ambitious and impressive time line, but surely these guys wouldn’t play games when we are under a time deadline like that, would they? You don’t think they took that part of the fairy tale seriously about gecko powered generators do you? Wait, that couldn’t be why that old white haired guy was running around chasing geckos with a butterfly net the other day, could it? No, now that I think about it, I think they were chasing him with a butterfly net and a white jacket, never mind.

I think it’s become quite clear that there are many of us who have been too hard on this legislature, and harshly judged them for not listening to outside experts, for not holding public hearings regarding the privatization of CUC, for telling the Department of the Interior that we don’t need their money, and for not knowing what they were doing. So let me be the first to say, I’m sorry if I jumped to any wrong conclusions, I’m sorry if I’m not smart enough to follow the logic in your flawless plan, and I’m sorry that I didn’t have the faith to believe that you guys finally got your act together and are truly acting in the best interest of the people of the CNMI. I am very excited to watch this plan come together and to put a stop to all the nay-Sayers, myself included. I am so glad that you have a plan that will save us more than $30 million in the next year in fuel costs and still have paid for all new generators. I am thrilled that we can tell the feds we don’t need or want your money; we have a plan of our own, so thanks but no thanks. And most of all, I’m thankful that you have once again given us a reason to respect you and to accord you all the honor that is due you. But of course this would not apply to the 3 legislators that did not vote for the override, Representatives Tina Sablan, Ed Salas and Francisco Dela Cruz.

Now there may be some that hear or read this and might accuse me of sarcasm. But the only ones who could possibly think such a thing would be those who don’t believe all the things I’ve just praised the majority of our legislature for. And surely none of the legislators would, with a few possible exceptions. So bring on the plan I say, show all of us that you truly do know better than everyone else. I can’t think of a better time to prove me wrong and put me in my place once and for all. So thank you legislature for ignoring everyone else and for sticking to your guns, I know it couldn’t have been easy to ignore that many people. Thank you for taking the time to come up with a superior plan that blows all the others out of the water. And thank you for restoring honor and respect to your body. I know that I for one plan on giving you all the honor and respect you have earned from this point forward. I’ve learned my lesson!

Food For Thought is now available online at and if you want it by e-mail distribution please send me an e-mail at

I’m Harry Blalock, thanking you once again for giving me a generous slice of your valuable time, and allowing me to share my Food For Thought.


Anonymous said...

Is that snake oil Mr. Sanchez is referring to? It might as well be... Before everyone gets all in a tizzy about HFO or RFO saving our bacon, please look into just how it was Guam was able to get away with burning this fuel that is not allowed by the US clean air act. From what I understand, from excellent sources, the approval of the very administrator of the US EPA (in Washington) was required. Supposedly, the word from EPA HQ was "never again!" and "we should have never even considered this."

And why is that? HFO and RFO burn very "dirty" and cause absolutely unpermittable emissions of sulfur dioxide, as well as the usual other exhaust products, when used in an internal combustion engine without emissions controls. Far worse than diesel.

Theoretically, stack controls such as a wet scrubber and bag house would be required if federal permitting requirements are applied, which we should all assume to be the case. And if you're goig to go to that expense (lots of construction, mountainous maintenance requirements = very big $$$), you might as well just convert to coal. It's way cheaper than even RFO.

HFO/RFO just doesn't make any sense. It would be like another island saying they should hire Aggrekko to solve their problems, because look! The CNMI got away with not following the clean air act, so why can't we?

Anonymous said...

Harry, I loved your sarcasm.

With the abysmal record these legislators are accruing, we can expect more dire times ahead.

Marianas Pride said...

Harry, I'm a bit jealous. Why are they talking about declaring you persona non grata when I have been working so hard to get that coveted title???

Apparently, they just can't keep away from your commentary. They don't like what you say, yet they still listen! LOL!

Harry, you have greater impact on our society than you may be aware of, and I thank you for your courage to speak out on any and all issues. Who cares if people agree or disagree? The point is, we must give people the opportunity to debate the issues. It sure is a hell of a lot better than what we see with typical politicos, who keep barking up the wrong tree, or continue to waffle on issues, or fail to use reason and logic when it comes to decision-making.

Change is coming, and I am sad that you are going to leave us next year. As always, thanks for speaking out, and for your food for thought.

Lil' Hammerhead said...

You want the truth Ed. Let's speak truth right? Why haven't they nominated Greg Cruz? Why haven't they nominated Congresswoman Sablan? Why haven't they nominated any number of residents who've written public letters telling them how inept they are in not so polite form? You know why they did it to a stateside lady back in the early 90s, and to Ron Hodges, and threatened Harry with it? Because they're all a couple of shades lighter than you, not "indigenous" or married to "indigenous".

That's it. Let's call it what it is.

It's disgusting, and those that entertained this are. Vain nitwits.

fugu said...

Don't give advice unless it is asked of you. Smart people know that they need advice and they will ask. Incompetent people don't think they need advice and will resent you for offering.
I have just summed up the problems of the CNMI.
Your welcome.