IIn an August 3 open letter, California Assemblyman Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Elk Grove, called out the state’s environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, saying that they promote policies that “systematically drive racial economic inequities and fuel environmental racism.” In this episode, Robert talks with Cooper about what motivated him to write the letter, why he wants to eliminate California’s EV rebate program, and why the state’s energy and climate policies should be overhauled. 

Episode Transcript

Robert Bryce  0:05  

Hello, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m your host Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And in this episode, I’m talking with Assemblyman Jim Cooper from Elk Grove, California. And we’re going to be talking in specific about issues of politics and energy in California and focusing on a letter that that you Mr. Assemblyman public wrote last August 3, rather. So, welcome to the power hungry podcast. Thank you for being on.

Jim Cooper  0:39  

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. You bet.

Robert Bryce  0:41  

So if, if you don’t mind what my tradition on this podcast is to have guests introduce themselves. You know, I’ve heard plenty of windy introductions and people say this about other people. And I know I’m putting you on the spot here. I didn’t give you a warning. But if you don’t mind, tell us who you are. Please, Jim. Imagine you’ve arrived at a dinner table. You don’t know anybody there and you’re explaining why who you are and why you there.

Jim Cooper  1:06  

Simon Jim Sullivan Jim Cooper, I represent South Sacramento, Elk Grove, Galt Lodi. I’ve been the California State Assembly since 2014. I’m currently the chair of a budget sub four. I previously served as the assistant Jordy leader and assistant majority whip. Prior to coming here. I spent 30 years with the second okay Sheriff’s Department and retired as a captain. I was also the first mayor and council Brunel Grove for 15 years.

Robert Bryce  1:31  

So you were a mayor and council member while you were in the sheriff’s office? Yes. Uh huh. So tell me about Elk Grove. You don’t hear that very often of founding mayor. I mean, you know, you we think that cities and towns are all new but this sounds this is this is a newly incorporated city. Yeah, it sounds like

Jim Cooper  1:48  

it was weird. Sacramento County had three incorporations within a span of 10 years. He’ll grill retro Cordova and set your sights unheard of, and primarily over law enforcement service. They wanted a higher level of service.

Robert Bryce  2:00  

So you had a law enforcement background. So you just kind of seemed to fit the bill then.

Jim Cooper  2:04  

Yes, read as a cop and I was number one vote getter at 26 people. So very fortunate.

Robert Bryce  2:10  

Well, that’s great. And so now you’re in the assembly and if you don’t mind, I looked up your the details on your reelected in 2018 with 68% of the vote to the assembly. Yes. Okay. And then your district nine, is that right? Yes. Okay, so it sounds like it’s quite a diverse district as well. Elk Grove median household incomes over $90,000. That’s significantly above the statewide average in California about 71,000. But you also represent Lodi where median household income is about $54,000. That’s significantly below the average for the state. So it’s quite a quite a diverse district you represent.

Jim Cooper  2:48  

It is very diverse. Its urban, its rural, its Ag and a lot of Ag in my district. A lot of commodities. Low produces 20% of the grapes in California. Napa Valley for its enormous force during harvest season, their trucks every day that go from right now. I go from Napa are crushing from low to Napa. So a lot of your Napa lines have Lodi grapes.

Robert Bryce  3:11  

Hmm. Got it? Well, so that’s great. I, so you’re part of your district in Sacramento County part is in San Joaquin County. Correct. Okay, great. So glad we got that other way. Thank you for introducing yourself, by the way that was succinct. But so the reason I contacted your office was because of this August 3 letter that you wrote. And

Jim Cooper  3:31  


Robert Bryce  3:32  

you’ve got it on an open letter to environmental organizations regarding environmental racism and lack of diversity. So I want to just read what I thought was one of the more startling things you in fact cite the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, environment, California and the California League of Conservation Voters and I’m just going to read this that those groups consistently push this is your your wording consistently push legislation that is designed to protect We’re improve the environment but frequently but when implemented, negatively impact disadvantaged communities in low wage in one households, the or these organizations, from their leadership to their funders are nearly all white and attempt to train on race issues by branding their efforts as environmental justice for which they did not apologize. What What led you to write this letter when you did?

Jim Cooper  4:21  

Trust frustration, we’re here in California, we pay 55%. higher energy costs the rest of the country and it’s ridiculous. And what’s interesting, so half of the assembly, half the legislators from LA when they’re up here in the summertime, and we had 10 days of 100 degree plus heat, they complain about how hot it is. They don’t have that in LA, and they don’t have that in the Bay Area. So our cost our energy costs are much higher than theirs. And that’s that’s the part people don’t get day in and day out. And it’s also a lot colder up here in the winter. So, you know, you still got to pay that plus pay your rent your mortgage, put food on the table and put gas in your car. It’s really The haves and have nots, and they’ve exacerbated this.

Robert Bryce  5:03  

So But was there something that you use the current line that triggered you on this? Was there some event that made you see? And you did this before the blackouts to which was interesting there now, you’ve hit you made some comments on Twitter. I looked up after the blackouts. What What made you do this in on why publish August 3, what was there some event that made you just said you’d had enough?

Jim Cooper  5:25  

Oh, before that Mary Nichols, on a weekend she she retweeted a tweet from someone from the PDC talking about that. We’ve used a lot of renewables that weekend. And it’s like, really, it wasn’t, it wasn’t a hot weekend. Number one, it’s a weekend. So your load was that big on the grid. And they’re touting that. And, you know, during these hot days, what’s interesting is, you know, solar is good between 10 and 12. You can’t store solar right now. So when you come home and it’s hot here in the valley in Sacramento, you flip on that AC, and it didn’t take that into account. So here these enviro types and I believe in climate change, but you’ve got to be smart about things, but they’re boasting it. And right now we have we have a nuclear power plant online if not to, and we use natural gas. So at the end of the day, we can’t survive on renewables. No wind is great when it’s working. And it’s so great when the sun’s up, when the sun goes down. Things Come on, and it doesn’t work. These folks don’t really address that.

Robert Bryce  6:25  

You also said you talked about that very thing about the higher electricity and motor fuel prices and said these higher prices, I’m quoting here, impact disadvantaged communities, especially those who live in areas like the central valley low dies in the Central Valley, and forced them to pay energy costs more to pay for energy costs than then what coastal communities do, and that they hurt the very people the environmental organizations claim to care the most about. He called out Mary Nichols on that very thing on Twitter,

Jim Cooper  6:53  

write it and that’s my whole thing with that it’s insane that we do these policies, and people are talking about it’s all about poor people. clean air, then be smart in your decision making and it hasn’t been they haven’t been smarter decision making. And it’s really impacted poor people. And then of the day, you got to pay utility bills to keep the lights on. And plus do everything else. So, to me, no one’s ever really addressed that issue. And most of these organizations, they don’t care about other stuff. I think it’s interesting. We did, we were doing some research. And for the electric vehicles, you use cobalt to power lithium batteries. California has over 700,000 electric vehicles. They want 5 million by 2030. But 70% of that cobalt is mined in the Congo. They use little kids to mine that. So here you are, you’re big and virals, you really care about our, you know, decimating the lives of kids and decimating a country a continent to get cobalt for your Evie batteries. So it just doesn’t die, but it to me, it doesn’t sit well. That’s why I want to call these folks out. They really care about somewhere else and not just their into hearing California, which is really hurting everybody. It’s been elitist

Robert Bryce  8:05  

when you mentioned that and he specifically say that the Sierra Club, he said has been complacent in addressing environmental racism because there are promoting policies that benefit coastal Tesla drivers has been more important. So do you know you live in around Elk Grove do E’s popular in your district?

Jim Cooper  8:27  

Now we’ve only got about 1% of the money and what’s interesting there 40 senate districts, so in one Senate District, in the past 10 years, they’ve got 29 million Evie vehicle 29 million in Eevee rebates, while six other senate districts have the same size receive less than one that coastal district. So it’s crazy and most of the V’s are going to the coastal communities down south in the Bay Area. And let’s be honest, Hlv lanes were high occupancy vehicle lanes made for multiple people. These days with the stickers people by the ease, they can drive in the carpool lane. And if you’re poor, you can’t drive in the carpool lane, because you can’t afford an Eevee because he is very expensive, and you pay more insurance. So you’re allowing folks to drive and commute those cars. And meanwhile, if you’re broke, and you’re poor, you’re in your gas guzzling car sitting off in lanes, two, three and four. So it just to me, it exacerbates the situation. And it’s a matter of fairness. But they keep pushing the Evie stuff every year, they authorize more stickers for folks to drive in those cars. And they’re good, but it’s just a matter of just being fair, being equitable, and it hasn’t been for so long. And they’re having a tough time getting to that, that mark they want to have in 2030. That’s why they have all these rebates. That’s why we subsidize it. And for so long, there was no cap I got a cap is instituted. I think it’s $40,000 right now, but before that you could be a millionaire billionaire. still get a rebate when you bought an Eevee,

Robert Bryce  10:03  

then that 400,000 that’s on the household income. That’s the limit then for collecting the rear.

Jim Cooper  10:09  

Yes, yes. Okay.

Robert Bryce  10:10  

So in your, in your letter you said to that the, that the the disadvantaged communities that you’re speaking up for throughout the state are mostly comprised of black and brown people, and that they commute longer distances to work and use more electricity due to hotter climates. So if I can, I’m just going to push back a little bit because I’ve thought about this a fair amount myself, and it’s not constrained just to California. But is it a race issue, or is that a class issue?

Jim Cooper  10:35  

As both its race and class, a lot of folks down in LA, and they can’t live in LA because it’s too consistently live in Riverside County of San Bernardino. Make commuting every day. So you’re right. It is a race and class issue. But But race plays a big part in it too. Because race, go ahead on the on the race part. A lot of those folks have the lowest incomes especially especially in the valley. In the Central Valley, and it’s just it’s not it’s unconscionable unconscionable things they’ve done

Robert Bryce  11:07  

and so, I mean, you’re speaking out as a as a Democrat in a in a democratic assembly in a state that’s overwhelmingly democrat and right. But I’m gonna I’m gonna ask you again Was there some Was there one thing was there something that was it Mary Nichols tweet that might have finally made you say because she said on it was after George Floyd’s death right she got her Twitter account was was that what what made you What got you so up on this was that what really was the final straw or wood I mean that really motivated you

Unknown Speaker  11:39  

was riled up before that

Jim Cooper  11:42  

of the camel’s back. But But also, like I said, I got a lot of Ag in my area, and it’s about 3 billion ag a year. And what’s crazy is for a farmer, you can’t use your tractor in California. They can use that same tractor anywhere else in the country or the world for that matter. That puts California farmers at a disadvantage. Right now la strawberries are farmed in Mexico, and they still farm here in California. Because your cost are much cheaper in Mexico, you don’t have the rules and regulations. So we’ve seen a lot of Ag leave. You see a lot of Ag come in from South America now in Asia, a lot of citrus, grapes and other things. And those rules are very different and much more lacks. So well, California is responsible for 1% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world. We do way more than that. And ultimately, it affects the price we pay for our agricultural products are fruit and vegetables in the grocery store. More and gas, more utilities. So you talk about some of these fees that are attached with some of this regulation. It’s a it’s just it’s it just doesn’t sit well with me.

Robert Bryce  12:52  

And so I didn’t follow you on the tractor. You said that your farmers in Lodi in your district can’t use their tractors because of air. Is it air Quality.

Jim Cooper  13:01  

Yeah, because carbs deemed it’s maybe three or four years old but it no longer falls into that special category for cap carb. So it can be used anywhere in California. So this has been an issue for years with farmers and ag producers where you can’t

Robert Bryce  13:16  

standard diesel diesel tractor can’t be Yeah, yeah.

Jim Cooper  13:21  

Why they want they want yeah because in their in their, their opinion it was too much Well, it’s putting everywhere else too and these are newer engines that are much better. So it’s just an arbitrary decision. So so it’s a really if you’re if you farm here, you you’re at a distinct disadvantage, you pay a lot more in fees, everything else so it makes it tough. And that’s what drives our prices up at the grocery store.

Robert Bryce  13:47  

Well, so let me follow up on Mary Nichols because I’ve not met her I you know, I’ve written I’ve read quite a bit about her but she’s an extraordinarily powerful, appointed a policymaker in California, she said Her was after the the LA Sentinel, which is one of the few publications that wrote about your letter. She they pointed out that, that on Nicole’s Twitter account, she put up a post and then later deleted it. But it was after the death of George Floyd. She said, I can’t breathe speaks to police violence but also applies to the struggle for clean air. environment. Racism is just one form of racism. It’s all toxic. Government needs to clean it up in word and deed. And then you on Twitter said How dare you use a dying man’s plea for help as a way to discuss your agenda? Have you no shame. And right, he deleted the tweet. So I mean, I don’t know if that says that a small victory. I mean, how do you think how do you view Nichols power in California and what is there anything that can be done to restrain it because it does seem like she has very wide latitude,

Jim Cooper  14:50  

very Nichols powers unchecked. Instead a lot of rules regulations, that impact California’s and she’s a bureaucrat, she’s not elected. She’s over. They’re making decisions that impact us all. And then today, we pay more in gas and utilities because of her. And it’s not right. And people should be upset about it. But people don’t follow it. And, you know, it’s here, people go along to get along. They don’t want to speak up. And having spent 30 years as a cop, and I had folks that want to kill me and put contracts out on me, and I’m not scared. I’m not afraid to speak out. It’s not my first job. So

Robert Bryce  15:28  

let’s who have the heavens have any of the environmental groups that you targeted here? I mean, you’ve really called them out in a way that I don’t recall other elected officials, particularly democrats that have been willing to do this if they replied at all or made any response to your letter.

Jim Cooper  15:45  

When the Sierra Club responded everyone was responded and they talked about it, but otherwise the rest haven’t responded. Because I mean, just say they have no response.

Robert Bryce  15:55  

And what did the Sierra Club say?

Jim Cooper  15:57  

They admitted that there have been some issues are trying to do it. But, you know, let’s let’s see if we want to work together. I want to talk to them next year about let’s see about those on those Evie batteries made from cobalt. Let’s make sure that no kids are used no child labor us to manufacture them. But let’s see what they have to say about that. I’m curious. They want to talk about that and they want to they’re so clean and green and you know, and all that. Let’s put their money where their mouth is.

Robert Bryce  16:24  

Well, it’s interesting you talk. It’s a good point. It’s interesting. You talk about Tesla, I live in Austin, Texas, the two local the Travis Travis County and the del Valley Independent School District just gave $60 million in tax rebates to Tesla to build a new supposedly they’re going to build a new truck factory here. Well, that’s an electric electric truck factory with a base cost a base price of $40,000. This is not a I mean, these this is the BMW of pickup trucks. So right I mean, what’s your what’s your take on just this is a little bit of a maybe out of left field. What you Take on Elon Musk and Tesla, you resent his ability to get all these subsidies? How do you view him?

Jim Cooper  17:06  

Or governments doing that? I think, you know, he’s a businessman, but at the end of the day, government has to be held accountable. And they’re offering these you know, obviously these fees and these fees and breaks to him. Um, there’s a lot there’s lots to talk about. And you know, it’s just I’m not I’m not one to slam local government because all politics is local. But you got to look at what you’re doing. Are you giving away the farm for it?

Robert Bryce  17:31  

So So what’s your view on the Evie subsidies then you’ve you’ve managed to get a cap on the on the income levels of the people that write but right are they worthwhile, should they be retained or should they be just discarded all together?

Jim Cooper  17:44  

They shouldn’t be retained. There’s no reason at all for me to

Robert Bryce  17:49  

get rid of all the Eevee subsidies and but you don’t but you don’t have any support for that in the assembly.

Jim Cooper  17:54  

Correct and people buying because they want to buy them and they want they want to help them climb and that’s great. Buy yourself. Buy them on your own. The folks that are buying them can’t afford to buy them without a subsidy. Let’s be honest, you get a federal tax break, get money back from California, and it gets taken to drive in a car pulling. That’s the only reason people do it. The majority right now is for that carpool lane sticker. Because traffic is so bad in California.

Robert Bryce  18:17  

So on the other hand, the Evie is not just about the climate, this is a way to get get through traffic. This is about mobility for wealthy people as opposed to mobility for low and middle income people.

Jim Cooper  18:29  

Absolutely. 100%.

Robert Bryce  18:32  

Well, how much is this going to be been tied in? Because I’ve also been reading about the vehicle miles traveled rule which just came into place this summer. Correct? Right. And that seems even in some ways, I’ll use the word pernicious than the than the than the Evie subsidy because it effectively is taxing housing based on the amount of driving that would be done by the people living in those buildings, right. So it’s raising the cost it’s it’s attaching. It’s making a higher profit. Price of housing based on a mobility standard. So it’s not just a carbon tax, it’s actually are an energy tax actually a mobility tax is am I reading it? right?

Jim Cooper  19:10  

Correct. So a lot of our gas taxes here in California pay for our roadway maintenance that has gone down. With Evie being used now. They are paying gas tax. So that’s an important thing to think about it, you fill up, it helps pay for the roadways. The V’s haven’t paid anything, because they’ve been subsidized. So how do we change that narrative? How do we fix that? And that’s really been the big issue. And you can’t just keep subsidizing them forever. I mean, we’ve had 10 years of rebates. And when you look at the rebates, you know, nuclear is gone. It’s crazy. That has gone to those communities that don’t have the air problems. The air is worse in the Central Valley because the mountains trapped on the coastal communities, they don’t have air problems. And that’s where all your TVs are they touted as, hey, cleaner air, that’s not helping the Central Valley. Does it help my constituents at all.

Robert Bryce  19:58  

So that the air quality And that was the part one of the interesting things about I mean Mary Nichols quote talks about that very issue about the applies to the struggle for clean air you’re saying no there’s no the struggle for clean air in the Central Valley is not being addressed and instead it’s yet cleaner air because the ocean blows on the coastal communities but the ocean air blows on to the ocean community. So you’re saying your air quality’s not for your constituents isn’t improving at all correct? Is that right? Yes. Well so then what happened what what what’s the next step then? What I mean eliminate the Evie subsidies you that you’re clearly in favor of that what but what if I pointed you I made you give you Mary Nichols job or if I gave you the job to oversee environmental policy in California? What what’s essential, what are the what are the first things you do the first three things you do to try and bring these costs down because California’s really facing some serious challenges.

Jim Cooper  20:55  

We are obviously the COVID-19 and California’s very expensive Live in Spokane as a state. Right now we’ve a huge homeless problem. we’ve thrown a billion dollars at we’re trying to fix that. Our housing problem is we’re way behind because of our environmental laws. There’s a lot of things and carbs use a lot of money over the years and then a lot of programs, but we don’t have any metrics for what they’ve done hasn’t been effective, the things you’ve done. We’ve had legislators write letters to carb, asking them for information. You can’t get anything out of it. And like I said, Mary Nick Bowles, she’s not elected. And ultimately her boss is the governor. She works the governor. So it’s very frustrating on our part, that they’re implementing these policies and procedures that impact all California’s and there’s really no accountability. That’s probably the most troubling issue trouble everyone. how someone instituting these rules. And at the end of the day, in I guess in layman’s term, is the juice worth the squeeze on all these programs? I gotta tell you, it hasn’t.

Robert Bryce  21:57  

Well, I’m glad to hear us juice in your mouth. For their I have a new film out called juice is the juice worth the squeeze? I’ve heard a lot of aphorisms. I’ve never heard that one. I like that. Yeah. So do you have much support in the assembly? I mean, for people who were among your colleagues, did they read your letter? Was there any response among you got some response from Sierra Club? Did? Did you get any other positive response from your, from your colleagues?

Jim Cooper  22:22  

From some Yeah, and they don’t know the issues. I mean, we’ve got people that come in from a wide variety of backgrounds. They have different issues. So this has been a big deal for me and with my constituents and how we change that narrative. And we have to at some point, because costs aren’t going down, costs are going up, and people want to see more solar and more wind. And that is not helpful. Like I said, what’s crazy is they want to reduce natural gas. We have a lot of natural gas fired plants. So when it’s five o’clock comes here in California is hot. You find that natural gas plant, those turbines turn, you can have energy on demand right away. That’s not happening with solar or wind, you know, 20 years from now, or 10 years from now, we may have battery storage, we don’t have it right now. And we’re not gonna have it anytime the next foreseeable future, reliable battery storage, they want to do with all natural gas pump storage where, you know, you’re pumping water up and then in the nighttime when it’s when it’s cheap rates and then pushing it down the day time and drive those turbines and doesn’t count as renewable energy. So it’s just some of some of the policies they do are just insane. And it really benefits that enviro crowd. And they aren’t representative of California.

Robert Bryce  23:39  

Well, so how does that class issue play out? Because this is something that I’ve looked at both in terms of energy siting, you know, refineries is one part of that too, but particularly on new renewable projects being sited in counties that are low income. It’s true in California. It’s true in a lot of other states. But what success is California even having an from it In terms of citing new wind building new transmission lines, Are you hopeful that the state can even come close with renewables when it comes to meeting demand?

Jim Cooper  24:08  

There’s no way we can do enough renewables, they keep putting a lot of money towards renewables. And the bang, is that worth a buck? And maybe later on it will be but

Robert Bryce  24:17  

it just isn’t worth the squeeze.

Jim Cooper  24:20  

All these metaphors, yeah.

Yeah, that’s that’s the frustrating part. I mean, like I said, I climate change is real, I believe in it. But we’ve gone too far. In that decision. They’ve made and impacted California at every level, from your, you know, your middle class, to working class families. They don’t have the poor families. They can’t afford this. Like I said, you got to have your utilities got to get in your car.

Robert Bryce  24:47  

So does that has the blackout changed the tenor of the debate there? I mean, it’s gotten tremendous amount of coverage. I’ve written about it myself. And it’s gotten tremendous coverage across the country, but right Did it change the the outlook in among your colleagues in the assembly? I mean how how seriously is was that are those blackouts being taken?

Jim Cooper  25:08  

very seriously it’s on their radar now and they don’t want to see it again. And it really made folks take a step back those three natural glass plants they were going to close but not going to close them now

Robert Bryce  25:18  

what about this push for all electric in California the the move away from natural gas in buildings. That’s been the big push pushed by the Sierra Club. What What do you think of that?

Jim Cooper  25:29  

I hate it. That’s where California wants to hit wants to move. Think about it. Most houses were built in California before 1915 1960. So most houses have gas, cooking and gas heating in California wants to push a mandate for all new buildings that are built are powered by electricity for your heating and cooling and also for your cooking. Think about that place.

Robert Bryce  25:54  

Clothes drying and water heating. Yeah.

Jim Cooper  25:56  

So so we have the highest prices in the country. For Electricity, you think you get rid of gas and restaurants to no restaurant cook wants to cook on an electric top, it’s all gas. So I mean, you think about the impacts, it’s just oh, well, it’s got to be green. It’s got to be, you know, renewable. It doesn’t always work, guess but effective. It’s clean gas. It’s natural gas. And even even what’s let’s let’s, you know, most of our gas in California for vehicles comes in the tanker rail car. So you know, what’s that? What’s that? What’s that carbon footprint of that? tanker condition Middle East all the way to California. They don’t care about that. They don’t want any gas coming out of ground in California.

Robert Bryce  26:38  

Now, you’re talking about oil, crude oil, crude

Unknown Speaker  26:41  

oil, crude oil.

Robert Bryce  26:42  

Oil. It’s from overseas. Yeah, I got you. Yeah,

Jim Cooper  26:44  

just the things they do and what what happens to some of those Middle Eastern countries where it’s produced at what’s their human rights record? You know, you really dig down deep into things. It’s, it’s just, it’s it makes you shake your head. This is gone for a long time. And these folks had a lot of influence over here and a lot of power in the legislature. And to me they have too much power.

Robert Bryce  27:06  

Well, so describe your politics to me because, you know, I’m I guess I’m just a member of the disgusted party and you know, I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my career and, and if I, if I would close my eyes and think Well, okay, Jim Cooper sounds kind of like a Republican. Right? And I’m not, you know, I know that. We’re I know, that’s a bad word in California. But the but the things that you’re talking about are, aren’t to me don’t seem like they’re partisan issues. It’s not a it’s not really a divided. It’s about well, who are your constituents? And how do you represent them? And particular protect them from regressive taxation, which, when I hear you talking, that’s what I that’s the message I hear, am I right?

Jim Cooper  27:43  

Well, I’m a dyed in the wool democrat my whole life 100% on social issues, just on some of the issues with business and the economy. You know, I just have concerns and I want to voice those concerns, because you hear from businesses in your district, so a lot of Ag a lot of industry, and it’s tough. And these people employ a lot of a lot of Maya voters, and we make it difficult day in and day out. Unfortunately, the business that has to change. So I mean, I, I call myself the common sense caucus.

Robert Bryce  28:16  

The common sense,

Jim Cooper  28:17  

is it’s common sense caucus. Yeah. If people just want people just want to be treated fairly. And right now it’s not in the the economic divide between the haves and have nots, has increased dramatically.

Robert Bryce  28:30  

So let me take a quick break here. All thank you all for listening. I’m gonna come back to Assemblyman Jim Cooper, you’re listening to the power hungry podcast. If you like this episode, and you’d like our discussion with Assemblyman Jim Cooper, check out our other episodes of the podcast on the power hungry podcast.buzzsprout.com. So that’s the immediate risk. That’s the middle message of this. So you talked about the blackouts and things changing so what but what’s going to be the Your gas plants are going to continue to stay open. But the push to electrify everything to move not just residential consumers, commercial businesses away from natural gas. But the other big push is on to electrify transportation. And right at if you look at the blackouts now and I look at it again from a distance, but I’m saying well, they can’t manage the load they have now where are they going to get that additional? Hundreds of terawatt hours? I think Southern California Edison estimate 130 terawatt hours, where will that how can that be accommodated? Is there has that been discussed is that come to the fore at all in the wake of the blackouts.

Jim Cooper  29:36  

There’s not been discussed, they can’t produce that amount of electricity. Right now most of your bus systems public transportation, run on ca g clean, natural gas, and they want to get rid of that. And like I said, with the blackouts it’s troubling. One of my colleagues one day forgot to plug his a Evie and in the Bay Area, it was late for session because he had to wait the next morning, get it charged. So just think about the blackouts if you’re the fires up here, and you have no power for five or 10 days. Now what do you do? things don’t work. You have to have a reliable backup. And right now we don’t have that. And we’re not gonna have that for some time. Then also the rare mineral minerals for your batteries, Evie batteries or even cell phone batteries. It is hard to get.

Robert Bryce  30:22  

You mentioned that on was your Twitter posts on August 21. You said everyone was saying we need more battery storage. And this was shortly after I guess Cal ISO announced that they were going to add more batteries. He said but the State Energy peak is 50,000 megawatts. So how much lithium would we need to extract to serve that need? How many more black children in the Congo will have to suffer this demand? And then you have hashtag environmental racism hashtag blood battery. Hashtag exploiting black children at what costs you call out Mary Nichols? I mean, you’re you’re on the warpath here, aren’t you? I mean, you really

do feel lonely.

Jim Cooper  31:01  

Yeah, you’re gonna Island sometimes but but I’m on there, I’m on the right side and they can’t answer those questions. They can’t tell you where it comes comes from, or how effective these programs are. They can’t say it, it is kind of pie in the sky. I mean, know what we all want clean air. But you know, you got to do things smart. And no one ever that no one ever really goes back and analyzes what’s been done and what the impacts been. And we’re seeing that right now, some poor decision making.

Robert Bryce  31:28  

So I brought this up before but I just want to make sure I understand. So if I pointed you in charge of energy policy, as I recall, you said well first eliminate the the subsidies and then and then what after that, what would you do in addition,

Jim Cooper  31:41  

I would go back and examine every program we’ve instituted at carb and see what what the outcomes have been what the effects have been. Because we’ve done so much. But at the end of the day, had they been effective and right now card can’t tell you that on a number of their programs. It really, really be smart with it. You know, you want it. Everyone wants to be green. But what does that mean? Was that mean be effective? You got to analyze it. No, we want good clean programs, but that’d be right. They got to be cost effective. That’s really a big issue. Are they cost effective chairs right now, as consumers are paying a lot of money? And what do we get from that? higher rates, you know, if it costs more to build a house, because some of these policies cost more to drive your car? So really just a 360 examination of what they’ve implemented and what’s what’s gone on, and really best practices.

Robert Bryce  32:34  

And will there be political support for that though, in the wake of the blackouts are is this is the is the, excuse me are the environmental is the environmental lobby so strong that they can’t be overcome?

Jim Cooper  32:45  

They’re very strong. So the blackouts obviously helped, and it lets you see a hole in their armor. So, you know, we’ll see someone’s got to answer that. And then we will see more blackouts.

Robert Bryce  32:58  

I think they’ll become more prevalent. Do you? Well, pg&e has already said they’re going to be more blackouts to avoid wildfires this this fall. So right there there and but you’re you’re served primarily by Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Right. And you’re in your district. Are you mostly pg&e?

Jim Cooper  33:15  

smud smud. Okay.

Robert Bryce  33:17  

Yeah. But smud hasn’t had the same kind of blackouts that pg&e has had has it?

Jim Cooper  33:21  


Robert Bryce  33:22  

And right before that, because it’s municipally owned, what’s in there more accountable? Why, what’s the difference?

Jim Cooper  33:27  

Well, mpgs got a bigger territory. So we’ve been fortunate and with our blackouts, but it could happen us. And that’s what really pisses people off when that happens.

Robert Bryce  33:39  

Let me ask you a different question. But it’s about politics here. So has it been good for California to be a one party state for this long has it been beneficial to the state?

Jim Cooper  33:49  

as a Democrat, it’s nice, but you always want to have you want to have real discussions if you want to. You don’t want to make a policy decisions in a vacuum and really do that initiative. COVID we haven’t had a lot of policy discussions. So that doesn’t make for that doesn’t make for good legislation. You got you got to talk about things and, and really examine the whole issue. Before you make a decision. You want to really make informed decisions. Oh, you know, sometimes, uh, you know, it’s things happen, but

we just need to be be judicious.

Robert Bryce  34:24  

So what’s what do you see as the future? Your Sacramento is your hometown? Yes. So you’ve seen a lot of change, and I’m guessing you’re in your mid 50s, maybe something 56 to six. So has it changed for the better? Well, I mean, Are you hopeful for California would would want to look at the future and see what what what what is the state look like in five or 10 years?

Jim Cooper  34:47  

Yeah, I’m optimistic that things will get better and stuff but people have to speak up and not be afraid. And really, you know that people want it in the day but you want it everybody to have a safe environment. And you know how to have a nice home and raise kids. People want that slice of the American Pie. And right now it’s not fair. We’ve got to get people that speak up and aren’t afraid to to rattle the boat. You got to do that to have change.

Robert Bryce  35:16  

Maybe it’s rock the Cajun rattle the boat No, wait a minute rock.

Jim Cooper  35:21  

Yeah, rocks up

Robert Bryce  35:23  

different metaphors here. So if you heard this, meant to rescue this before, this idea about climate redlining. I’ve talked with other people in California about this idea about the climate policy has become such that, in fact, it acts as redlining both in will in terms of housing, is that a familiar term to you?

Jim Cooper  35:43  

I haven’t heard it but it makes sense though. Yes.

Because people don’t want more houses built and I think it’s interesting because they don’t want to they want to build up not out and they want to see more and multifamily housing and that’s great live in the downtown area. If you’re young, or you’re old, you know. Move on life, but is a as a parent with kids that are growing up, you know, you want to have your piece of American Pie. You want to have a house a backyard. I mean, you don’t want to be downtown with you know? So it’s just I do see redlining is ness. That’s part of the problem we have right now that impacts our housing.

Robert Bryce  36:19  

So we referred to this before, but is that is that is the American dream, your idea about the size of the American Pie? Is that is that at risk in California, then I mean, something even a question, but is it because it fundamentally because of energy and climate policy? Or what’s the big danger?

Jim Cooper  36:36  

Yes, absolutely. on energy and climate.

So, they want they want, they want to restrict it. People just don’t want. They don’t want the urban they called the urban sprawl. And, number one, people when you buy houses if the man wasn’t there, and people want to get out, and you’re seeing that now, you’ve seen a lot of folks that were living in the Bay Area because the prices are high. It’s just a different style of life. They’re coming out here in the suburbs. They’re driving the housing prices in Sacramento up here dramatically, because they can telecommute. He can work from home. And people are building out of San Francisco, and also because of some failed criminal justice policies.

Robert Bryce  37:14  

Well, let’s talk about that. Because that’s one of the things that apparently, is a big well ism is a macro trend now about after COVID the idea that suburbanization is going to increase because people are saying, Well, I don’t want to be crowded in the city. I don’t want to be you know, running subway, etc. So is that is that pressure you’re talking about right now seeing home prices in Sacramento area increasing? Is that a trend that you see continuing?

Jim Cooper  37:39  

I do see that. And people are just tired and just want to get out of a lot of cities are dirty, they got a lot of issues with drug use homelessness, and you see it when you walk out your front door, and people are tired of dealing with that. And they’re looking for a change, and I don’t blame them.

Robert Bryce  37:56  

And what’s the root of that? Because, you know, again, I’m looking at this from a distance, but it seems like those the homeless problems in San Francisco and in Los Angeles are becoming, I mean, almost unmanageable. And why why has the government let that get to that point? What is the I assume it’s the initial motivation is out of compassion. But it seems like something else has started to what or what’s driving that, I guess would be the shortest way to ask a question.

Jim Cooper  38:22  

Well, a long time ago, when ronald reagan was governor of California, he closed our mental health, our state mental health facilities. And that really hurt us tremendously. Because you don’t have any state run facilities. And then really the substance abuse issue. So you can do all you want, but you know, until you resolve those issues, I don’t see things changing. And then also building housing. We haven’t built housing like we should have. We’ve been very slow to build housing. And we can’t catch up. You can’t build your way out of this. And like I said, you got to deal with the mental health issues and the substance abuse issues. No, those are those are serious issues. Even if you have a job and you have a stable environment at home. You’re on drugs, you’re mentally ill. It’s tough to survive.

Robert Bryce  39:04  

Well, and what’s driving the shortage of housing, then? I mean, you’ve been in the state for your whole life. Why? Why can’t the state build the kind of housing that it needs your, as I did my research and looking at different reports, you’re at least 1,000,002 million, 3 million units short. I mean, these are big, big numbers, right?

Jim Cooper  39:21  

When the fees if the housing expensive, you buy a new house, you’re gonna pay about $70,000 in fees for water fees, Park fees, fire fees, law enforcement fees, changes just been tacked on over the years. So they’ve got to recoup those fees somehow local government has to, so they’re dealing with a lot of issues.

Robert Bryce  39:41  

So it’s reform at the state and local level.

Jim Cooper  39:44  

Right, right. And it really, I mean, to me developers know how to build and how to do that. And government is just so intrusive in that and just get away, let it build.

Robert Bryce  39:56  

So well. Now we talked about ease and ease. So what do you drive you drive your pickup guy? What do you weigh? What is your How do you get around a big suburban? Yep. And and you pay him What did what did gasoline cost you the last time you build them?

Jim Cooper  40:17  

Yeah, it’s about $77 $77. For

Robert Bryce  40:20  

one tankful

Jim Cooper  40:21  

that’s got 777 bucks for a tank, but got three or $4 a gallon then

Robert Bryce  40:26  


Jim Cooper  40:26  

it’s right now it’s like to Costco it’s 260 or 270 a gallon.

Robert Bryce  40:32  

It’s about $1 more than what it is here, here in Austin.

Jim Cooper  40:35  

That’s death. And people don’t realize that we pay so much more for gas and the rest of the country.

Robert Bryce  40:41  

Right. So what’s the hardest part of your job? I mean, you’ve had a bunch of different jobs. I mean, the interesting career in the sheriff’s department that is the mayor, and now you’re in the assembly what’s what’s the hardest part of of, of doing what and doing that job in this in the assembly.

Jim Cooper  40:59  


God, there are so many issues, different issues to wrap your arms around. And you know people sometimes fudge here. So, you know, and things they say. So it’s not always accurate. That that’s probably the most frustrating thing because a lot of coming from law enforcement, everything’s black and white, in here is always black and white. You get people up getting up in hearings, witnesses, being untruthful, making stuff up. So that’s why that’s one reason why I represent a lot of egg. I’ve done about 70 or 80 egg tours. I wanted to become knowledgeable on eggs when someone talks about egg and really, you know, just the truth. I can I can rein them in.

Robert Bryce  41:50  

So what about we talked about California and their future and you’re hopeful for the state, but what about you individually? I mean, you It sounds like you’re a family, man. What what are you hopeful for what makes what gives you hope that makes you think things are going to get better?

Jim Cooper  42:05  

You got a lot of people who I work with my colleagues, they all have the best intentions. They want what’s best for California and the people of California. And they’re really concerned about it. But it’s one thing you come here, it’s tough here because like I said, we work on so many issues, just a myriad obviously, being a former cop, I love criminal justice, partial partial to that. But you know, really wrap your head around some of these things and have the expertise.

You know, it’s tough.

If we vote on probably 3000 bills in a year, think about that. 3000 bills. So you’re heavily depend upon staff, you’ve got to have good staff and staff to make your break you. So there’s a lot of moving parts and these folks that secede from LA, they fly up here on Monday. They fly home on Thursday. Got district stuff to do. So it’s a lot of juggling. It’s a tough job. It’s not easy.

Robert Bryce  42:59  

So I asked, What do you want people to do? I have a copy of your letter and I’m gonna I’m gonna post it on your Twitter. Thank you. What do you what do you want? What do you want people to do? I mean if that’s one of the things I like in this podcast is that idea of the call to action. You know, if you’re selling, you’re not like, okay, not many people can vote for you that are going to hear this podcast but what what is your hope for people who are listening to our conversation and that read your letter? What do you want them to do?

Jim Cooper  43:26  

Just to not

not be part of the herd and just just be a bunch of sheep and ramble along speak up be heard and complain about stuff. energy costs are too high in California. They’ll folks have to do something to change it. The way you change it is to make your voice heard and complain to your legislature a local official complaint about these things because if not people complain

fossil take action.

Robert Bryce  43:53  

And so but but again, and to reiterate your messages that that that fundamental issue, though But you keep coming back to is the availability and, and and cost of energy being the foundational part of that reorganization of thought is their theory? reexamination? Is that a fair assessment? Yes.

Jim Cooper  44:16  

And why is that I’ve been that I’ve been that way since day one by by during doing those tours and, and try to make myself knowledgeable, and then just hearing from people, especially now during the pandemic, but folks been unemployed. Just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean your bill stop. Sure. So that’s, that’s, I’ve heard that from folks over and over again, how do we get some relief? How do we get some help? And I just bought this about the problem to life but it’s underscored this inequality this inequity with with regard to rebates for electric cars and and cost of energy that that that COVID has made that as forced to or should force a better reckoning, is that a fair way to put it? Yeah, it should it really a reexamination of our policies. In our procedures, and some of the things we do, you got you got to do it. But that’s only as good as a knowledge. And it really the in depth employee to go and do a deep dive on it.

Robert Bryce  45:10  

Sure. So who are your personal? Another question I like to ask what are your personal heroes? Who do you look up to? either in politics or in culture or sports? Who do you Who do you Who do you dig? Who’s your Who’s your hero?

Jim Cooper  45:25  

My mom, she had a hard life growing up and she she made it and her my father and they had four kids and

she’s my rock. I wouldn’t be here without her.

Robert Bryce  45:37  

What’s her name? Helen, and she lived there in Sacramento still,

Jim Cooper  45:42  

she is still alive My father’s path JC and gave me a good he gave me a good work ethic. Haha, so

I’ve always I’ve worked hard my whole life.

Robert Bryce  45:50  

And what did you learn? What about your mom makes her heroic?

Jim Cooper  45:54  

Last, not fair. Got to work hard. No excuses.

Robert Bryce  46:01  

That’s good. So what about this since that’s really good So what makes it What are you reading now? What do you what do you what are you reading books? We read newspapers What do you do to keep up? I know you got a you’ve talked about the 3000 bills I mean it’s a it’s a heavy workload you’ve got in the assembly but right What do you get novels? You are a nonfiction guy, what do you read?

Jim Cooper  46:22  

No books right now. This is this been bills for session and then I read the second one will be the LA Times Wall Street Journal, and just trying to keep up on issues every day and stay abreast.

Robert Bryce  46:36  

So your reading is just about making sure you’re up to date on on politics and current events.

Jim Cooper  46:42  

It is worth reading. If anything, I listened to a lot of music 70s and 80s. Listen to music of 70s and 80s. Yeah, Like who? Everything I mean, r&b, hip hop, rock, just everything. That that’s the one thing I do, I guess. What am I one of my guilty pleasures is

Robert Bryce  47:00  

that no, I don’t know that’s guilty. I don’t know. It’s not like not like you’re sneaking Delos or Saturday. I mean, that’s pretty non. It’s pretty harmless as far as guilty pleasures go. Well, good. So somebody’s been Jim Cooper. It’s been a great conversation. I don’t want to keep you all day we’ve been on for almost an hour, but I will. Again, you know, your point about having people listen, pay attention, get informed on these issues. I will post your letter and retweet it on my account because I know you put it on your Twitter account on August 3, but it’s it’s a really remarkable letter and I would our urge people are listening to this podcast to read this letter because I get it almost cinches my fingers reading it because of the amount. It really isn’t. You know, I’m being a little facetious, but you’re clearly very it was, it was motivated by some deep, deep sense of injustice. Is that a fair way to Talk about it.

Jim Cooper  48:01  

Yeah, piss me off. Anger,

anger. It just me often Oh no, it’s not fair. And no, it should things should be equitable when they are. And someone got to speak up. Otherwise it keeps rolling and rolling and gain momentum. They become just overconfident. And they’re just arrogant. They’re arrogant, they know what’s best for us. And no, you don’t know what’s best fresh, never walked in my shoes. And you’re in California 40 million citizens and they’re not doing what’s best for California.

Robert Bryce  48:37  

Well, that’s a great way to end it. We’ll end it right there. Assemblyman Jim Cooper from Elk Grove, California District nine. You can find him on the interweb on the Google. He’s easy to find. Assemblyman Many thanks for your time. Thanks to all of you for listening. This has been the power hungry podcast. Tune in for the next episode. Look forward to seeing you right back here next time. Thanks again.

Unknown Speaker  49:01  

Thanks, Robert. Thanks, Jim.

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