On September 24, United Latinos Vote published an “Open Letter to the Sierra Club” in the Los Angeles Times that declared, “your world is not our world,” and that “yours feels hypocritical and socially divisive and would disproportionately burden those who you claim to support the most.” In this episode, Robert talks to Robert Apodaca, the executive director of United Latinos Vote about what led his group to publish the letter, the lawsuits that Latino groups in California have filed against the state’s climate policies, and why he believes that the state must rethink its efforts to ban hydrocarbons.

Episode Transcript

Robert Bryce  0:05  

Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m your host, Robert Bryce. This is a podcast where we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And today we’re going to get a heavy dose of politics. And while talking about energy and power, my guest is Robert Apodaca, who’s the executive director of United Latinos vote. Robert, welcome to the power hungry podcast.


Robert Apodaca  0:25  

Well, thank you very much for the opportunity to express my views on your podcast.


Robert Bryce  0:30  

Glad to have you. So, Robert, my tradition on this podcast is to have guests introduce themselves. So if I’ve already given the name of your affiliation, but imagine you’re driving somewhere you don’t know anyone there. Give them give them a quick introduction, if you don’t mind.


Robert Apodaca  0:47  

Or so I’ve been social activists, really poor starting in 1970, was at school at UC Berkeley. It’s a great place to get educated and politicize which I did. And so I have a long history of working in the nonprofit sector, worked in it for about the first 15 years following college started to projects that both projects are now still in operation after 50 years. So I feel real proud about that fact, that there, and all those projects serve low income ethnic minorities. One project in particular, the housing project called Casa working, Marietta, serves primarily Latinos, and the education gain Center serves of mostly ethnic and low income individuals, getting them into colleges. So I find myself right now, and active at this late date in my life, but I feel like I’m just now coming on to my own. And I founded united platoons vote in about 19 2000 2004 2005. And initially, the purpose was to increase Latino voters, and there’s a lot of now we need to get them out to vote. And it’s now the organization’s focus on advocacy. So sure, short version of my background, and then my experience with United Latinas vote.


Robert Bryce  2:21  

Okay, so the reason I’m having you on today, so everyone knows right off the bat was that on September 24, you purchased an ad that was published in the LA Times, it’s called an open letter to the Sierra Club. And this is pretty remarkable letter. The parts that jumped out to me is your world is not our world. And you said we are from rural and urban communities with our livelihoods in agriculture, small business and personal services, we keep the real economic engine running. We are the people who make death tough daily choices about how to drive to work, feed our kids, share a video screen for school and take our parents the world. All these things are hard, your world would make them only harder. And you’re replying to an open letter that the Sierra Club published just six days earlier, September 18. So can you tell me the background? Why now why this letter? And frankly, I mean, it’s it’s as my father might say, stronger than garlic. I mean, you really are calling them out?


Robert Apodaca  3:24  

Yeah, well, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. A lot of my friends, a lot of social activist friends that I have throughout the state have been complaining about the strong policies that the environmental movement has been putting forth and, and making its way into laws and regulations. And we found that well, you know, we all agree that climate change is an important issue. We don’t need any more facts, we believe it. But we think that the way the state is going about it in the state is influenced quite a bit by the Sierra Club and other major organizations, we just happen to respond to the Sierra Club. And in that in that ad that we took out. And what’s interesting about the points that I, that I mentioned, that letter resonated with a lot of the readers and I got a lot of really positive feedback. You know, most of the people who responded to it, I would say over 70% were Latinos themselves. So you know, I hit a hit a nerve, and they said, Right on, we agree with you. There were non Latinos that also read it and responded saying, I’m not I’m not Latino, but those issues also apply to me and my family and friends. So thank you for saying something about it. So it was not as though we were waiting in the bushes waiting to take a shot at them. But the opportunity came up and we thought we better speak out now because the intent of their of their ad was to put more pressure and influence the governor and legislators so we The timing was going to be important.


Robert Bryce  5:02  

Sure, every day, and they made five points in their letter, which I guess was published in the Sacramento Bee, and in the LA Times, and it was the California justice, Environmental Justice Alliance, Earth justice and the Sierra Club. And they had five points in fossil fuel infrastructure, increase use of clean energy, phase out dirty fuels in our homes, phase out polluting cars and trucks and appoint strong climate leaders. So you address each of those point by point and the one that jumped out to me, because I’ve written about this, and in fact, did a report on it that I published a couple of months ago about the natural gas bands that have now been approved by more than 30 different environmental or 30 different governments in the state of California. And those bands as I see it, and I think it clearly is the case that they’re regressive because they’re going to force consumers to use gas, electricity instead of gas. But you responded by saying, you want to be speaking to the Sierra Club, you want to phase out our dirty stoves, water heaters and furnaces. Here again, it would require us and our land or our landlords to make investments we can’t afford. We don’t understand how this works. So what do you think of these? I mean, you make the five points here. But let’s just start with that one about the natural bands. Why is that such a wrongheaded policy?


Robert Apodaca  6:17  

Well, it’s wrongheaded, because it’s also related to another wrongheaded regulations that’s been put forward by by by regulators, and also regulations that have not been approved by the by the legislature. So the last 15 years, I’ve been a real big advocate of homeowners. You know, our folks, a lot of people were wiped out during the Great Recession during that mortgage crisis. And they lost their homes, they lost their wealth. And so there’s a growing racial gap in terms of racial wealth gap. So we’ve been addressing this issue in Sacramento by encouraging the legislators encouraging the governor to increase homeownership, particularly with people of color, because that we believe is going to be a way to not only address issues related to poverty, but it’s also going to reduce the racial wealth gap. And so and in the housing, as you probably know, is more expensive than Austin, Texas, and a lot of places around


Robert Bryce  7:24  

and it’s expensive here. But California is in a whole nother whole nother class,


Robert Apodaca  7:28  

because a lot of Californians are moving to Austin, Texas.


Robert Bryce  7:31  

And we’re, you know,


Robert Apodaca  7:34  

ever buying up those beautiful places in Austin. So you can blame California for that you can blame California’s for exporting, you know, a lot of things to the rest of the country right now, to buy a new home or just buy any home. It’s just out of the reach of a lot of people in California, probably, oh, I would say, upwards of 70% of people cannot afford to buy a home and it’s a real problem. And then it just trickles down in terms of the high higher costs of affordable housing.


Robert Bryce  8:03  

So how so if you can tie that back? How does that tie in then to the gas issue, the gas


Robert Apodaca  8:07  

gas issue? Because not only if not only is it


Unknown Speaker  8:13  



Robert Apodaca  8:14  

having to compete for a higher, higher cost home, but then to operating it? I mean, there’s the operating costs of housing. And you know, and then of course, it’s a big issue. So when I first learned, and I you know, and I just I just learned about this about a year ago, I was I was told by some friends who operate Community Development Corporation’s of the of the intentions of this. And so I went to a meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission. I went there last October, at the meeting in Los Angeles. And the commission denied that they had any plans to do that. And they said, We don’t know where you’re getting that information. But we’re here to take your testimony. And then of course, we found six months later, that the California Public Utilities Commission is collaborating with other state agencies to ban natural gas. Now, the banning of natural gas has already taken place in other cities in Northern California. And when I learned about the details and plans to do this and other parts of the state, that’s when I really got angry and decided to do something about that.


Robert Bryce  9:21  

Well, it’s clear that the Sierra Club has been along with Rocky Mountain Institute has been one of the main groups that is pushing for these bans on natural gas. So let me back up if you don’t mind just a minute, because So you mentioned you’ve been in an activist for for 50 years now, if you don’t mind me asking. So how old are you, sir?


Robert Apodaca  9:39  

I’m 71.


Robert Bryce  9:41  

And so you’re the the the text of what you wrote here is spot on and very factual, but there’s a lot of we’ll just call it what is it just seems that you’re angry about how this these issues are being approached? Is that Where does that anger come from? And I am i right to call that anger, it


Robert Apodaca  10:05  

is anger, because, because what happens is that. And here again, I do believe that climate change is a big issue and needs to be addressed. And it affects us. But you know, I’m mindful of the fact that, that has been shared with the rest of the world, that California only generates 1% of the greenhouse gas of the entire world. And, and what what California is trying to do is to get a lot of our boys get a lot of, you know, stars or whatever, to, to be the world leader in this field, but it’s an expense of poor people. So they’re, they’re advocating for regulations, that’s going to make it more difficult for them to drive an electric car, more difficult to buy a home and more difficult to to not be driven into poverty because of a higher cost of higher cost of living and energies being housing and energy and transportation are the main


items and driving up the cost of living.


Robert Bryce  11:13  

Sure. Well, this is what was also interesting about the timing of your letter is It’s the second time in as many months that environmental or minority leaders have have essentially called out the environmental groups in California for their policies. We mentioned earlier, you and I were talking about Assemblyman Jim Cooper, who in late August, issued an open letter calling out the Sierra Club and other environmental groups on their on their policies regarding in subsidies for electric vehicles. Have you are you familiar with Assemblyman Cooper for what he what he did a few a few weeks ago?


Robert Apodaca  11:49  

Well, I was not, I was not familiar with that statement that he made. But I also but I am very much aware of the statement that he tweeted out to Mary Nichols, the chair of a California Air Resources Board The insensitive,


Robert Bryce  12:03  

you know, and just horribly insensitive remarks you made about how environmental issues was just as important as you know, Black Lives Matter or whatever. You know, instance, right, I remember I remember I interviewed Assemblyman Cooper on the podcast and he talked about that very thing that she tweeted out something after George Floyd was was murdered and she then said something on Twitter about environmental racism, and then she was roundly attacked on by many, many people. She deleted the tweet. And then I’ll come back to the Air Resources Board in just a minute. But you also in your in your open letter you talked about you responded to the Sierra Club’s letter about ending fossil fuel infrastructure. You said the first item in your in your letter was you went to phase out our polluting cars, the ones we drive to work and take our kids to the park in food require us to write hefty checks for those expensive TVs you like so much, and then pay higher energy bills, so we can afford to drive them? You do any of your colleagues or friends drive ease?


Robert Apodaca  13:11  

No, no, I can’t I can’t think of a friend that guy’s name. Evie. I drive a Prius. I’ve got this. I’ve I’ve owned three of them. But there’s no plug. There’s no plug. Exactly. Exactly. And then, you know, it, you know, I was talking with Assemblymember Ville quirke a few days ago, who said, Robert, this is such a, this idea of EBS is just not very practical, and we haven’t thought it through at all. The fact of the matter is, you know, just think about the practicality, all those cars that are parked on the street, you know, we’re gonna have these hundred foot, you know, extension cord going out? I don’t think so. He says, you know, then you know, the charging stations are expensive, in addition to the car, and then and then all these apartments that need to be retrofitted to put them in, that’s going to drive up the cost of rent for everybody whether you drive an Eevee or not.


Robert Bryce  14:15  

Now your governor Gavin Newsom has said he wants to ban internal combustion engines altogether in the state.


Robert Apodaca  14:21  

That’s right. Well, I think at a minimum and I think that a lot a lot of people are just not even aware of hydrogen you know, Toyota has introduced a car that and I I have some friends that the drive a Mariah I think it’s the maker of a car and that’s that’s that’s going to be even a cleaner source of energy because it the problem with even with the the electric cars down the road those batteries I know are gonna go out and and there’s going to be a junkyard of of batteries like right now there’s a lot of junk yards you know, stockpiles. have solar panels, which is an environmental issue in itself. So he’s gonna head on?


Robert Bryce  15:05  

Sure, sure. So let me interrupt you because you know what’s interesting, and I talked to Assemblyman Cooper about this. And, you know, I don’t identify with the either political party and republican democrat, I’m just disgusted, right? centrist. How do you describe your pal? Your politics, you’ve been at your you’re born and raised in California,


Robert Apodaca  15:24  

a lifetime Democrat, my family’s a lifetime Democrat. And, and my, my, my, my policies have been progressive. But in the last 10 years, I’ve taken a look at some of these progressive policies that have been advocated. And I think that the they’re just not very practical. And, you know, particularly as a relates to poor people. So you know,


and no one The problem is that no one


there aren’t lobbyists that are advocating on behalf of poor people, they’re not you, you would think you would think that the labor unions would be advocating for blue collar people. They’re not always doing that. So it’s a real serious problem. When, in the last few years, the biggest job killer for housing has been the Building Trades Council.


Robert Bryce  16:19  

Let me let me switch gears a little bit with you because I testified a few days ago in front of the house energy subcommittee, which was interesting, and I was making some of these points. I talked about natural gas bans. I talked about subsidies for EBS. I mentioned Assemblyman Cooper, and during that the hearing one of the Democratic members, Representative Nanette Diaz about again, the after being with the one of the other members on the committee introduced your your open letter and mentioned the the ad in the in the Los Angeles Times. She said, Oh, United Latinos vote, they got $15,000 from pg&e, is that true? No, not at all.


Robert Apodaca  16:58  

So should I invoice pg&e for $15,000?


Robert Bryce  17:02  

I guess? I don’t know where she got them. But I thought it was just it was interesting to me that here’s a Latina saying, Oh, those lip, those Latinos don’t don’t matter because they got a maybe got some money from utility?


Robert Apodaca  17:17  

No, not not at all. You know, the fact of the matter is, United Latinos vote has raised a lot of money over the years over the last 15 years. from from from different sources, and foundations, corporations. When we first started doing voter registration, the first million dollars that we raised were from where from came from casinos, for sort of tribal money was a big, big start how we got started with United Latinos vote. But you know, you know, PGD may have given us money way back in 2006 2007. We weren’t even advocating for on energy issues at that time, so


Robert Bryce  18:00  

and so the energy issue now. I mean, you mentioned the housing, transportation, energy and how key though those are and as well as homeownership, and I interviewed Joel kotkin who’s at Chapman University in Los Angeles, he’s a demographer, and he talked about that importance of homeownership. So do you know what the the rate of homeownership for Latinos in in California is today?


Robert Apodaca  18:24  

Yeah, I think and I don’t have that absolute committed to memory, but we tend to be maybe around 58%. But what I want to point out is that we still have not recovered from the Great Recession are still 100, to two to 2%, below the highs from before the Great Recession. But we’re still lagging. We’re still lagging with white families at this point. So and, you know, they’re they’re just a lot of challenges. But in California, in particular, is that high cost of housing, and now it’s even going to be more difficult going forward, given the economy, given what’s going on in banking, where they’re not making it more, they’re tightening the credit, so that instead of a growing number of buyers out there, there’s going to be a shrinking number of buyers. And I’m concerned about that.


Robert Bryce  19:17  

So let me follow up on that, because I’m sure you’re well, you’re familiar with the 200. And the litigation that the the 200 has now against the state of California. I’ve interviewed Jennifer Hernandez, who’s the lead lawyer on that. And a couple of years ago, I interviewed john Gamboa. But what is it? I’ll talk about the litigation or we can talk about it, I hope from just a minute but tell me who the 200 that group, what is that group and why are they so active now?


Robert Apodaca  19:48  

Sure. So the 200 is an advocacy group that was started by a nonprofit group called California Community builders and I was one of the cofounders of that organization as well. And when when we first started out, wanting to address the affordable affordability issue, we decided that we wanted to build either condominiums or townhomes. We wanted to build a for sale product because we thought communities our communities deserve something more than just a rental unit. And so we built we were we our first project was supposed to be building 21 townhomes in a small farming community named fireball, which is in Fresno County. And but by the time we we got approval from the bank, the mortgage crisis was in full blown that and and so we they only provided funding for the for 10 townhomes. We sold that we built them and sold them. And buyers had to earn less than 30% of the area median income, but they bought them. And they and they all have lived there now for over 10 years. So the 200 was able to prove that nonprofit group could build affordable housing for for minority groups. That’s right. But then also, we also proved that poor people can buy a home. In fact, the people that bought those homes, their mortgage payments was less than the rents that they were paying.


Robert Bryce  21:26  

Uh huh. Well, so and so why we talked about homeownership, but let me just write about or just mentioned this the 200 because I think there are three different three different lawsuits that are now pending that have been filed by by Jennifer Hernandez, a lawyer from Holland and Knight. But the the claim one of the suits claims that the state’s climate laws violate the Fair Employment and Housing Act, because the new greenhouse gas emission rules on housing in the state, I’m quoting here have a disparate, negative impact on minority communities and are discriminatory against minority communities and their members. I mean, this is a broadside against kind of a whole range of policies in the state, isn’t it?


Robert Apodaca  22:09  

Yeah. So this new regulation that just took effect on July 1 of 2020. It’s commonly referred to as VMT vehicle miles traveled. And what that does, is that if for, for any homes that are built out in the suburbs, and let’s face it, that’s that’s where the land is. And that’s where it’s being built. Sure. So in San Bernardino County, our lawsuit was filed in there in San Bernardino County, where we we retained an economist to figure out what the mitigation costs are going to be. So the regulation states that each household should not drive more than one 10th of a mile. So basically, cars are being banned. And so what what happens is that the developer now has to purchase in advance, bus passes or rail passes, whatever has to provide has to buy those in advance, and for for 25 years. And so then that investment that the developer has to make is pass on to the buyer. So have you thought you were going to buy a three bedroom two bath in San Bernardino County? Well, that house is now going to be 950,000. So what’s going to be more expensive? Because of the I mean, really, it’s a restriction on transportation. Is that?


Robert Bryce  23:36  

Is that Is that a fair way to? Because I follow the VMT thing? And it seems almost Well, it is incredible to me, I live in Texas, of course, but I mean people out here as a matter of habit, but with it, but the regulation is essentially telling future homebuyers in California, you’re not able to you can’t buy, you’re not you’re not supposed to drive.


Robert Apodaca  23:53  

You’re not you’re supposed to drive to work, you’re not supposed to drive to get groceries, you’re not supposed to drive, take your children to the doctor’s, you know, you’re you’re supposed to use your bike you’re supposed to walk, that’s just not very practical.


Robert Bryce  24:06  

Well, and from and was this was this implemented by karma? Who? I’m sorry, say again, please?


Robert Apodaca  24:12  

Well, you know, walking and walking certainly is the best mode of transportation in Manhattan, but you know, not in Texas.


Robert Bryce  24:22  

So my question. So where did that vehicle miles travel regulation come from?


Robert Apodaca  24:28  

Well, there were there were maybe the agency that promulgated the regulation is the Office of Planning research. And, and then there was another there was another agency to other agencies that are escaping at this point. But the fact is that there there there are a lot of agencies, including the California Air Resources Board, that are advocating for these regulations, and they all they all collaborate but In terms of what really came out on the regulation, it was the lead agency was the Office of Planning research. I see.


Robert Bryce  25:07  

Well, that was one of the things that stood out to me in the in the Sierra Club’s own own letter or their open letter from September 18, they said, appoint strong climate leaders to regulatory agencies like the Air Resources Board, who will champion bold solutions that simultaneously address climate change and other air pollution. I thought, Well, I mean, how much stronger Do you you know, who would be more, you know, more stringent or more? I don’t know, and pose even more more stringent rules than the people that are there. Now. That to me really stood out as a kind of a, we just odd?


Robert Apodaca  25:43  

Yeah. Well, so. So what happened? So when when, when the regulations came out, we of course, asked them to back off, then when COVID hit, we were really concerned that we wanted to them to delay implementation. But unfortunately, because the courts were also closed, we were not able to get in there. So finally, so finally, when we were able to get a scheduled court date, to file an injunction on that, it was like maybe I want to say what’s going to be like August 28.


Robert Bryce  26:19  

And this is via this is on VMT, the VMT rules? That’s right, yeah.


Robert Apodaca  26:24  

Then when we thought we’d be able to go before a judge to ask for delay on this. Unfortunately, the defendant requested a change of venue, and the judge granted it to them. So now that now that the court is going to be tried in Sacramento, and so by changing the venue, the the scheduled date for the hearing, in the injunction hearing has been delayed that that has not been set. So So then what we did, so then there were there were about 20 legislators, that that, that signed a letter that was authored by Senator Ana Caballero. And she got about 20, assembly members and senators to sign a letter and send it to the governor asking him to delay implementation of this regulation. And he ignored it. We we organize a campaign and sent him you know, nearly 1000 letters to the governor’s office. And he has ignored us. And so


Robert Bryce  27:26  

in that VMT, just to be clear, that was never implemented by the legislature that was done by by regulators by your Kratz. That’s right.


Robert Apodaca  27:35  

Yeah, the regulators did try to get approval from the legislature some years ago on that concept, and it was voted down. And


Robert Bryce  27:43  

then but it may. So this is me, well, I hadn’t really thought about it this way. But that’s just fundamentally undemocratic. I mean, isn’t it? I mean, yeah. Am I am I making too much of that? It just seems like wait a minute, something this important, should be something that should be handled legislatively instead of through the administrative state. Right.


Robert Apodaca  27:59  

That’s right. And that’s the point that we’re making. it’s it’s a it’s a violation of the Fair Housing Act. It’s a violation of a lot, you know, a, you know, a lot of laws out there. And they’re just saying, stop us, if you will. They’re almost like daring somebody to get in front of that local motor train. So.


Robert Bryce  28:20  

So you want to go back to this idea about what you know, what makes you so you angry? And I talked to, I think a colleague of yours, john Gamboa, who’s with the 200, as well. And I think he’s with his his his group that California Community builders, is that is that his his outfit?


Robert Apodaca  28:39  

Yeah. Don, and I are the co founders of that. And then we’re also involved with the 200.


Robert Bryce  28:45  

Right. Well, so when I asked him to describe the state’s policies, he described the some of these climate policies. If I’m as a variant on redlining, right, the refusal to lend money for four Homes is how would you describe is this is this climate? redlining? What’s the how do you how do you typify What’s happening?


Robert Apodaca  29:05  

Well, I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying climate redlining, but it’s clearly there’s, there’s many forms of redlining right now in California, which is, you know, we’ve been addressing them, what was probably the one law that is a great example of redlining is sequel, The California Environmental Quality Act, because that is that is a regulation that is a law that has mostly been abused by environmental groups and and and the building trades group to prevent


Robert Bryce  29:42  

to prevent more housing from being built.


Robert Apodaca  29:44  

That’s right, exactly.


Robert Bryce  29:46  

And GM gamba also said that and I’ll just ask you to respond to this. And I know he’s a friend of yours, but he said that the history of the environmental movement is that they care more about spotted owls than brown babies. I mean, that’s


Robert Apodaca  29:59  

pretty hard. That’s very harsh. So that’s it. That’s a great line he uses quite frequently. So what happens is,


Robert Bryce  30:07  

do you agree with him?


Robert Apodaca  30:08  

Oh, absolutely. I agree with that. And what happens is that


Unknown Speaker  30:14  

is that


Robert Apodaca  30:16  

and will take responsibility for not being able to frame our issue in such a way that people can readily understand what we’re saying, and elevate it to the elevate home ownership to the same level as as climate control. And


Robert Bryce  30:34  

so what happened is just climate change, it is cloud.


Robert Apodaca  30:38  

Yeah. So so. So I’m


Robert Bryce  30:40  

just I’m sorry to interrupt. But so you’re saying that, because I’m thinking again, an interesting point, and I’m just trying to want to make make it, bring it, bring it bring a finer point to it. So you’re saying that your your little self criticism here that you haven’t been able to formulate a message that is resonating? Is that was that in my gap


Robert Apodaca  30:56  

here? Exactly. I mean, so I mean, so here’s, in contrast, the environmentalist, as we’re in the middle of COVID, the environmentalists were sending out messages and doing all this advertising. They were lamenting the fact that COVID has taken the center stage over climate change. Can you imagine there? Hundreds of thousands of people who’ve been affected, they’re dying, and they’re saying climate change long term is going to be worse than than COVID? I don’t think so. You know, so, so we have not we have not been as dramatic. But but we have not, we have not been able to convince the legislators and environmentalists that homeownership is part of the California dream. Everybody has a right to own a home. And, and and then what the state’s been doing, and they’re not even doing a good job of building enough affordable housing.


Robert Bryce  32:02  

Home and the homeownership is key because, well, I talked about this with Joel kotkin. But he put it this way, and I’m just curious if you agree with it, he said, Look, if you own a home, then you have a stake. Right, then it gives you a reason to care. How do you how do you see it? What did why is, why is homeownership so important?


Robert Apodaca  32:19  

Well, you know, in contrast to living in overcrowded apartments and living on the street, I mean, homeownership, particularly for children. Just think about that, you know, they’re in a secure environment. It’s a healthier environment. It’s It’s, it’s, it’s a comfort, I mean, so these homeownership means that they’re going to be in and other neighborhoods, where there’s going to be a lot more resources available, you know, there’s going to be grocery stores that have a lot of healthy food and, and it just, it’s going to hopefully be a crime free neighborhood as well. So homeownership is just so fundamental, you know, to the to to American life, and to the California dream.


Robert Bryce  33:11  

So one of the things that the john Gumbo and I talked about, he said communities of color are the collateral or collateral damage and the war on climate change. Again, it’s it’s, it’s it’s pretty harsh, but if the but this but the litigation that the 200 has filed is really underscoring that kind of point. I mean, how do you see this in terms of and, and what what’s the What do you see is the end point here? What’s the What’s this? What’s your what’s your relief, besides the injunction on the VMT? what’s the what’s the best way forward, then?


Robert Apodaca  33:45  

Well, I think what you know, our goal is to convince the legislature and the government executive office, that there are other tools and laws that they have available or could develop, to address climate change. And and, I mean, the fact of the matter is, all these forest fires that we’ve been experiencing, that’s, you know, devastated. last count, I heard last week was over 4 million acres of land, loss of a lot of homes. Surprisingly, the death toll has not been that high. But all those fires and we’re just now entering into the official fire season of all those fires are generating a lot more greenhouse gas, then then these older cars out there. And so it’s it that that’s a known fact. And and then the other the other thing that’s disturbing about some of these laws that the regulators are proposing in terms of banning natural gas, those same regulators are also in favor of banning renewable natural gas and the way you the way you develop renewable natural gas from biomass, it can be from woodchips, it could be from food, it can be from cow manure, there are a lot of it. And that was generating a lot of the greenhouse gas. And there’s a way it’s an economical way to develop that natural gas and use and but they’re opposed to that. So just a lot of hypocrisy.


Robert Bryce  35:23  

So I don’t want to make this an advertisement for BP or the hydrocarbons. But I mean, how do you see it? I mean, is there is that is it feasible that the that California or any other state could just run solely on renewables? How do you see that question?


Robert Apodaca  35:38  

Robert, you kind of went out on me.


Robert Bryce  35:40  

Okay. Sure. Let me repeat it. So what about the future of renewables? I mean, the state has these lofty goals for renewables. I, my own opinion on them, but is it possible for particularly lower middle income consumers to to manage their daily lives without hydrocarbons without coal, without oil and natural gas? Is that reasonable?


Robert Apodaca  36:03  

I don’t, I don’t think it’s reasonable, given their finances. So therefore, I don’t expect the government to subsidize all the poor people, whether they’re new, they’re new homes, or, or, or, or new electric cars. But we need to start thinking about, you know, and I’ve been advocating for this year, the last couple of weeks, and that is, there should be a mitigation fund to pay for the electric cars into pay for renovating their homes and getting rid of natural gas. So basically, what I’m saying is that, let’s put some dollar figures to what the cost will be to achieve these goals. And let’s have a very candid conversation about that.


Robert Bryce  36:48  

Sure. So you said also, I mean, speaking about the transportation thing, which I think is really fundamental, because you mentioned before we started recording that many minorities that this that they don’t have a choice but to drive long distances. And in your your your open letter on September 24, in the Los Angeles Times, by the way, Dr. Robert Apodaca, the executive director of United Geno’s vote, he said, Let’s not wink and nod here. And then in boldface, you said, You know perfectly well, that the 10s of millions of drivers in California who drove hundreds of billions of miles in 2018, mostly to get to work are not able to suddenly stop driving. So I mean, you’re making this key point, I’m not referring back to the vehicle miles traveled thing, but that mobility is fundamental to to livelihoods for pretty much everybody.


Robert Apodaca  37:40  

Yeah, it’s fundamental to livelihood. And and the fact of the matter is that a lot of these individuals, they’ve been driven away from Job Centers, they cannot afford to live in downtown Los Angeles or nearby, therefore, they have to go out to San Bernardino or further out, just just to have a home a safe place. And as


Robert Bryce  38:03  

I recall, I’m sorry to interrupt. But that was one of the key points that Jennifer Hernandez made in one of her lawsuits was that the cost of homeownership was a direct function of distance from from city centers, right. So that if you’re limited means you don’t have a choice but to live further out of town.


Robert Apodaca  38:19  

That’s right. And what the crazy thing now is that


the that a foot, you know, because the same was you have to drive till you can afford the home. Right. But now with the VMT law, that that price just went up by 400,000.


Robert Bryce  38:37  

Is that is that the right number, the $400,000?


Robert Apodaca  38:41  

That’s the right number of your living in San Bernardino that they calculated what the mitigation cost is going to be. So that is a hefty number. I mean, you could you can buy a very nice woman, many parts of Texas for 400,000. Here, that’s just going to be a mitigation costs added to the cost of a new house in California.


Robert Bryce  39:01  

Wow. Well, I’ve never heard that line. That makes sense. So you have to drive until you can afford the home. Right. Yeah. So yeah, that’s great.


Robert Apodaca  39:11  



that, you know, then what was not stated? Is that then that that forces them to drive, perhaps pollute, but also that’s increasing the cost of living for that particular family. I mean, driving is very expensive. So it just doesn’t make sense. A lot of it just doesn’t make sense.


Robert Bryce  39:36  

So are, are all of these climate policies regressive?


Robert Apodaca  39:42  

I see them mostly as regressive. Absolutely.


Robert Bryce  39:47  

Is it intentional?


Robert Apodaca  39:50  

Well, it makes you wonder, because, you know, when, when they’re when these regulators are presented with studies, I’m sure they talk about why What are going to be the consequences? And they’re going to say, you know, if we do X, what’s what’s going to happen? I got to believe. And in our in we’re finding through our second lawsuit, a Public Records Act lawsuit, that, in fact, they’re they’re given us a lot of documents that said that the state, in fact, they knew what they were doing and still pushed ahead anyway.


Robert Bryce  40:24  

Right, the state regulators knew that there was going to be a negative a deleterious impact on on low and middle income people, and they pushed forward anyway.


Robert Apodaca  40:33  

That’s right.


Robert Bryce  40:35  

So let me ask you a question I put to Assemblyman Cooper. Is this about racers in about class?


Robert Apodaca  40:41  

Well, I would like to think of it as class, because it’s just not you know, blacks and browns that are being affected by this. There’s, there’s a lot of there are a lot of other poor people. It just happens that, you know, the vast majority of people who are poor are our RF neck. So and that’s what makes it crazy is that is that when you, you know, so if you look out for the next 50 years, or 100 years, or whatever, even short term, the next 20 years, it’s, it’s, it’s it’s mostly, you know, the young population, the homebuying population, the vast majority of them are ethnic. And as they’re entering that phase of their life, they’re not able to buy a home. And that’s why we think it’s discriminatory. And that’s where you have to do


Robert Bryce  41:29  

some, and that’s where you should do something now.


Robert Apodaca  41:31  

That’s right. That’s right. And, and yeah, and, you know, so the, the the increased cost of homes and you know, a lot of these individuals don’t come from families where you can go back to your parents say, you know, I need $100,000 assistance, as a down payment for this new home that’s now more expensive. They just don’t have those me. Right.


Robert Bryce  41:55  

Well, so let me just ask you a few more things then. So what what should the states and again, we’re talking about, I’m talking to Robert Apodaca from United Latinos vote who wrote a, I would call it a scathing open letter to the Sierra Club on September 24. So what should Excuse me? What should California’s energy policy look like?


Robert Apodaca  42:17  

Well, I think I think that on, on energy, let’s say, I think that we should not strive as as what the state is doing now to be mostly electric. I think


Robert Bryce  42:37  

I think, you know, transportation and and, and residential. Right. Right, that the push for electrification needs to slow down?


Robert Apodaca  42:44  

Well, the need for electrification needs to slow down for, for for some very practical reasons. Number one, electricity is not as not reliable, you know, with all these forest fires, and also of all this, you know, hot climate. We’ve had a number of brownouts. And I think that’s going to be a way of life. So that’s throughout throughout the state, not not not every community, but that’s a real, it’s a real factor. And then what people don’t realize is that, okay, you have these brownouts. And it also affects the security for a lot of people, because what happens is, in some, in some cases, the cell phone towers are not working. So there’s alternatives to that, which could be they could there’s a self fuel generators that they could, and the primary source of providing electricity could either be hydrogen or natural gas, that the natural gas is converted into hydrogen. electricity. So we have to look at that. So the fact is, is that we we have to have a more balanced source of energy for California,


Robert Bryce  43:59  

more balanced energy policy overall. Yeah, that doesn’t just preclude the use of hydrocarbons. That’s right. Yeah. So what’s the future for California? Your what’s your hometown? Were you born in Oakland? Or is that your home? Where are you where you’re from? Well, I’m


Robert Apodaca  44:16  

originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico. Okay. So, but my primary residence is in Oakland, California. It’s, um, I think California is moving in the direction of a lot of families moving out of California. And it’s just not where people I, I personally know of families who had a household income of say, between 150 and 200,000. And they moved out, they moved back to Minnesota. So it’s, it’s it’s, it’s really, I mean, the fact of the matter is that California has the highest poverty rate in the country. There are two California’s free California And so and so it’s a lot of the people on the coast that have, as Jennifer refers to him, they’re part of the keyboard economy, you know, they can afford to stay home, and to remain safe from COVID. And make a lot of money. But for people who, you know, no one’s really talking about the farmworkers, no one’s talking about all the people in the agricultural business. And that’s really, I mean, that really gets me going. Because the fact of the matter is, up until maybe the last 20 years, agriculture has been the the number one economic engine of California, and, and who, who was supporting that economic engine, a lot of Latinos and ethnic minorities, too. And they don’t have anything to show for it.


Robert Bryce  45:52  

Nothing. Because they don’t have a say at the capital. They don’t have lobbyists. Know exactly. So just a couple more things, Robert, and I appreciate your time. And I have to, you know, admit, we just talked this morning, and I said, Hey, do a podcast in a couple hours. You said sure. So you’ve been very gracious with your time and and I appreciate your flexibility. So what’s the hardest part of what you do? I mean, you’ve been you’ve made it clear, you’ve been in the in this battle for a long time. And now you’re in your 70s. And you know, I’m a little bit younger than you not a lot younger. But I can I could see the finish line from where I’m standing now. And so can you? What’s the hardest part of doing what you’re doing?


Robert Apodaca  46:34  

Well, the hardest part is,


is really making a case


and making our case relevant to energize people to take action. So people care. Hmm. To make people care. Yeah, to make people care Exactly. You know, we’re, we’re a divided nation, we’re a divided state. And, and everybody really need to understand we’re all in this together. And because California cannot continue on the path that it’s on right now. And so the, the state will, will continue to grow, you know, kept, you know, there are a lot of people that will go take extreme grass to get to California, and God’s gonna help them because they’re gonna need all the help. They can. It’s a very expensive state to live in. But so the biggest The biggest challenge that we face is at the state capitol, because, you know, we don’t have lobbyists making the case for us. And we’re, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of people there, a lot of lobbyists there. And, and so we’re, I think we need to do a better job of describing in graphic details, what the impact is going to have on all these poor families and to remind, and to remind some of these legislators who came from poor families, you know, remind them of who they really represent. They have to represent their constituency, and not represent, you know, the bills that that are being advocated by lobbyists. And what one of the one of the one of the one of the youngest, newest legislator, that that is remarkable individual, that’s assembly member, Robert grievous, who recently in testifying before, on his bill, he was challenged by the Building Trades Council. And he said, I want you folks to know that I’m a third generation union member. My grandfather was a member of the farm workers union. My father was a member of the farm workers union. I was a member. And I’ve been a member of two other unions. And he just basically just stood them down. Unfortunately, his bill did not make it to the next level. Because the Building Trades Council killed it at the next level, but the next committee,


Robert Bryce  49:12  

so let me let me ask you because you said it California is a divided state, but it’s a it’s really a one party state. Is it the divide is the divide? I’ll ask a provocative question. Is that the divide between the haves and the have nots? Yeah, it’s the divide between the rich and the poor in California.


Robert Apodaca  49:30  

That’s what and that and that and that that division is just getting wider.


Robert Bryce  49:35  

So it’s the coastal it’s the coastal Californians versus versus the inland Californians.


Robert Apodaca  49:41  

But yeah, you know, exactly.


Robert Bryce  49:47  

So, two last things, if you don’t mind. So. What are you reading? I mean, you know, I, suddenly lately I’ve been reading more books. Who do you read? Who do you who do the writers that either in books or journals Um, who do you Who do you like to read who inspires you when you when you’re doing reading?


Unknown Speaker  50:07  

Well, a lot of


Robert Apodaca  50:10  

a lot of I know, not any books in particular just recently. But, you know, I do a lot of reading of newspapers. A lot of I read the economist, you know, almost, you know, cover to cover. Sure. But but that’s a good point. I need to do more about reading. I’m not trying to call you out here. Yeah, exactly. But that’s a luxury that I don’t have it at the moment.


Robert Bryce  50:40  

Yeah. And fair enough. And it is off to the luxury. Well, so last, and this is something that, because it’s a question that I like to ask as well. So you know, you you, we’ve talked about a lot of issues and a lot of challenging ones and the ones that can be dispiriting. What gives you hope.


Robert Apodaca  51:01  

I think what gives me hope is that


this younger generation is really concerned about the country and really concerned about California. And I’m hopeful that I’m hopeful that more journalists in particular, I’m hopeful, more leaders tell the full story. As I was interviewed yesterday by Sammy Roth, from the LA Times, and I said, Sammy, when are you going to start reporting what the cost of these policies are? Because, you know, they’re not going to be free. And I think, I think for the public to have the opportunity to discuss these policies, they need to have all the facts, and they don’t have that. So I think it’s the role of journalists minimally, to, to put some numbers to those policies. And so people can say, Whoa, are we ready for that?


How am I gonna afford that? I like the idea,


but I just don’t have the money. So we need we need more transparency. Absolutely. more transparency. Good.


Robert Bryce  52:13  

Well, I will end it there. Any other thoughts? Robert, before we stop here? It’s been it’s been a great, great conversation. I again, I appreciate your time. Any last parting thoughts before we sign off here?


Robert Apodaca  52:24  

No, I really appreciate what you’re doing. It’s wonderful. And, and podcasts has become a you know, almost


everybody has a podcast. And you


know, everybody has a web,


a website now a podcast. And I mean, it’s leaving webinars in the dust. So thank you are using this new medium to get the word out? No, I’m


Robert Bryce  52:48  

happy to do it. Again, Robert Apodaca from the executive director of United Latinos vote. Oh, we forgot. So if you want to follow Robert’s work, go to United Latinos, vote.org. That website is open and available, you can find the open letter to the Sierra Club from September 24. It was in the last published in the Los Angeles Times, just a few days ago. So you can read it all there. Robert, again, thanks for for joining me. Thanks to all of you for tuning into the power hungry podcast if you if you did what I’m doing here by all means, go to rate this podcast.com slash power hungry and give us 14 1732 stars, whatever you deem appropriate. But thanks again for listening. I will sign off here. This has been the power hungry podcast. I’ll see you next time.


Robert Apodaca  53:35  

Thank you very much.


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