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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Environmental Groups Blast CPS Energy Over Its Latest Board Appointment

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 4:37 PM

CPS Chief Paula Gold-Williams speaks during a presentation last year. - VIA CPS ENERGY'S WEBSITE
  • Via CPS Energy's website
  • CPS Chief Paula Gold-Williams speaks during a presentation last year.
Members of local environmental groups have taken aim at CPS Energy's appointment of tech CEO Janie Gonzalez to serve on its board, saying the city-owned utility is "self-selecting" to eliminate diversity of option.

In an open letter to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and city council, Climate Action SA warned that business representatives now dominate the board of CPS, one of the city's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. Climate Action's members include the Lone Star Sierra Club, MOVE San Antonio and other environmental and social justice groups.

"The record shows that there is no effort in seeking a candidate with diversity of thought or background, knowledge of the energy industry, commitment to sustainability, etc.," states the letter, signed by officials from the Sierra Club, Public Citizen and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. "The board currently has no public health officials, energy experts or community organizers."

Gonzalez, a San Antonio native, helms Webhead, a locally based cybersecurity business. In the letter, Climate Change SA praised Gonzalez's financial and management skills, but added that the board is already made up of members with similar backgrounds.

In a written statement, CPS said it cast a wide net to fill the spot, including outreach to diverse communities. Since launching the search last spring, it held two informal public information sessions and bought ads to let the public know about the opening.

"CPS Energy knows that having diversity among the board better represents the interests of all the parties within the organization, including stakeholders and employees," the utility said in its statement.

CPS said it received 17 applications for the slot — a comparable pool to other recent searches for board positions. It interviewed eleven of the applicants.

In its letter, Climate Change SA also charges that CPS picked Gonzalez behind closed doors. Its members were only able to speak with the businesswoman in "quickly arranged, last-minute meetings," according to the letter.

CPS disputed that claim, however, saying Gonzalez met with a wide variety of interested parties to understand their concerns.

CPS also faced controversy over another previous board appointment, the retired Judson ISD Superintendent Willis Mackey, when members of city council called the utility out for not selecting a female candidate. Ultimately, though, council approved Mackey on an 8-3 vote.

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