Southern California Edison has sent a letter to a Latino advocacy organization demanding that a video linked to a rooftop solar campaign be taken down from its website and YouTube.
Presente.org, which is part of the SaveRooftopSolar.com coalition that includes The Other 98%, has responded by saying it refuses "to be intimidated" by the power giant and will "expand" the "fight for solar energy" it is waging with the Sierra Club's two-year-old My Generation Campaign.
Like My Generation, Presente.org claims Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric are heavily lobbying legislators in Sacramento to essentially choke the budding rooftop solar industry in the crib.
For years, California residents who have installed solar panels on their rooftops have seen their electricity bills shrink to as low as zero owed monthly because they are generating more power than they use and, in some sunny months, helping lessen the load of their own neighborhood grids.
The solar-promoting My Generation campaign is damning recent proposals in Sacramento to add regular monthly fees for such (non-) ratepayers. The environmentalists got the attention of Latino advocates because one such bill is being introduced in the Assembly by Latino Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno), who wants these ratepayers to pay $10 monthly or $120 a year.
That threatens the entire rooftop solar industry, according to Presente.org and My Generation, which accuses Edison and the other power company lobbyists of greasing the palms of legislators like Perea.
Last week, they launched an online petition urging Latino leaders in the state legislature "to protect the expansion of the state's clean energy economy against the most powerful utilities' attacks on rooftop solar."
Included on the website, and now YouTube, is what the nonprofits characterize as "a parody video" to demonstrate Southern California Edison's role "as a proxy for the big utility industry's efforts to weaken key programs that have been behind California's success story of solar energy expansion," according to the groups.
"California's power utilities have gone off the rails in an attempt to destroy the Golden State's incredibly successful rooftop solar program," explains John Sellers, executive director of The Other 98%, in an email. "Shame on them for using their money and their political clout to target Latino politicians. We're calling on elected leaders to stand tall against this assault by the dirty power industry. California must continue to lead the way toward a clean energy revolution in America."
But the video is guilty of spreading "false and misleading advertising," "trademark infringement" and "unfair competition," according to a letter from Janet S. Combs, SoCal Edison's director and managing attorney, Customer & Tariffs, that is dated Aug. 16 and addressed to Favianna Rodriguez and Arturo Carmona, principal and executive director with Presente.org respectively.
Statements like "Edison is 'spending big on Latino politicians' to make installing solar panels on customers' roofs more expensive and discourage customers from installing solar panels" constitute false and misleading advertising under state and federal law, Combs writes.
"The video's use of the Southern California Edison and Edison International marks constitutes both federal and state trademark infringement and violates both the federal and state laws against unfair competition," Combs adds.
She demands, on behalf of Edison, the removal of the video from the website and YouTube, the end to "false and misleading statements regarding Edison, whether made orally or in writing' and use of company logos and acknowledgement within 14 days that this is being done. Otherwise, writes Combs, "We will be forced to pursue legal action."
Read the full letter on the next page, followed by the Presente.org and The Other 98% responses ...
"Southern California Edison's threats against us are a joke," Carmona responds in a statement. "Instead of trying to divert the public's attention by threatening to take legal action against our video parody, Edison and other utilities need to tell the public why they've spent nearly $900,000 lobbying Latino legislators.
"Our video parody exposes how and why they are trying to deliver a lethal blow on the future of rooftop solar," he continues. "Instead of scaring us with their baseless legal threats, Edison and other big utilities have succeeded in motivating us even further to take our video to key television stations in Latino districts so that our community can better understand what some Latino legislators and these utilities are doing to kill cost-saving rooftop solar efforts."
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That's, of course, a reference to Perea's Assembly Bill 327.
Sellers of The Other 98% scoffs at the Edison claim concerning the use of its marks and logos.
"The use of corporate logos for satire is standard practice recognized by law," Sellers says in the statement. "But Southern California Edison obviously doesn't care for the satirical message of this video. They're mad as hell that we've exposed their lobby's calculated attempt to squelch the state's rooftop solar economy. Attacking rooftop solar means putting at risk solar jobs and energy savings. And it perpetuates our reliance on dangerous energy sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear."