Saturday, 04 February 2023

Morgan: Calpine's plan to get reorganized lacks security


Now that Judge Burton R. Lifhand of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York has approved Calpine's Sixth Amended Joint Plan of Reorganization, Calpine CEO Robert P. May should set his sights on fixing The Geysers' biggest embarrassment its security operation. Why? Because cosmetic security has no place in a post-9/11 world.

By all appearances, for far too many years, the security operation at The Geysers has been cosmetic by design. The security there has been set up not so much to protect Calpine employees, contractors, guests and property owners, but as an excuse for Calpine to have lower liability insurance rates.

Think about this fraud is defined to be "an intentional perversion of truth" or a "false misrepresentation of a matter of fact" which induces another person to "part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right." If you walked into a convenience store and saw a video camera rotating back and forth with a flashing light, what would go through your mind? Would you not think the store owner was making an effort to protect his store and his customers?

But, suppose you asked the store owner about that camera and he told you the following: "The camera is a fake. I just set it up so that I could qualify for lower liability insurance rates." How would you feel as a customer?

Well, this is the problem with The Geysers' cosmetic security operation. I believe it to be fraudulent. That makes it illegal. That makes it a danger to everyone who comes and goes through the gates at The Geysers.

To add insult to injury, the cosmetic operation at The Geysers does not even rate very highly from the appearance standpoint. Just travel up Socrates Mine Road to the Post 3 entrance and you will see with your own eyes an embarrassing situation at the entrance gate. There is a gap between the gate bars so wide you could drive a truck through them without touching either bar. Why the gap? Could it be that neither Securitas nor Calpine think it mandates fixing?

What do you suppose a bankrupt company and world-famous security firm would see as important for providing security at The Geysers? How about having the Calpine maintenance crew come out to Post 3 to install a power line to move a bugger zapper that was working on the guard shack six feet away to a telephone pole? Why the move? Because the zapping of insects at night by the bug zapper makes noise. It irritates the guard on duty. It might even keep him awake.

Well, here's a news flash guards are supposed to be awake and alert at night. Having a bug zapper close by should be viewed as a good idea not a bad one. However, the wisdom at both Calpine and Securitas saw the situation quite differently. And, Calpine was more than willing to devote the time, effort and money to address the supposed problem. But, the gap at the Post 3 gate? Well, it's still there.

Did you know speeding up and down narrow roads in The Geysers was a problem? Well, it's not really a problem so far as most people who work there are concerned. Most of the people who come to work in The Geysers are not stupid. But, someone decided speeding was a problem in The Geysers so action had to be taken. Securitas supervisor John McMillen had his personal vehicle equipped with radar equipment. Think about this. One vehicle has been equipped with radar equipment to monitor traffic in the two-county area of The Geysers. This one vehicle is only going to used to monitor traffic when McMillen himself is traveling to and from The Geysers.

While the bug zapper and radar situation demonstrate a lack of common sense, the fact The Geysers does not have a comprehensive backup clearance operation put in place by Securitas is much more serious. When a Calpine contactor travels to The Geysers and is denied access for no other reason than his Calpine contact has taken the day off both the contractor and Calpine lose money. This happens quite often at The Geysers. Why? Because Securitas does not have a comprehensive backup procedure in place. It simply relies on Calpine to handle this matter. Consequently, if there is a clearance problem and Calpine cannot solve it, Securitas can blame Calpine.

But, it is really no coincidence that Securitas does not have a comprehensive backup procedure. It is actually part of their supervisor's design. He does not want his guards engaged in such work. It takes away from his scheduling and payroll processing for work done by Securitas both within and outside The Geysers. Put another way, it takes away from the supervisor's financial benefit of using his office in The Geysers to generate revenue for himself. Believe it or not, John McMillen has actually scheduled guards that work in The Geysers to work a special night shift of security at Clearlake's Wal-Mart.

Sadly, the cosmetic security operation at The Geysers is doing a lot more harm than good. Both Securitas and Calpine are behaving in a less-than-honorable manner. This is not in the best interest of the people who live, work or even visit The Geysers. The time has come to "clean house." Get rid of Securitas and bring in a professional operation that will provide REAL SECURITY. If Lake County's fastest-growing bedroom community, Hidden Valley Lake, can put forth a professional security operation that clears and tracks its entrants using real-time data, should the world's largest geothermal operation, The Geysers, do less?

Here is a list of what The Geysers should have:

1) Cell phone and VOIP (wireless Internet) services mandated.

2) All guard locations networked via The Internet.

3) Instantaneous traffic data feedback via computer.

4) A comprehensive security clearance back-up procedure.

5) Clearance authorization digitally done through a data bank utilizing driver license registration.

6) Traffic records saved on a database and available 24/7 at the click of a mouse.

This inept and embarrassing security operation at The Geysers has been brought to the attention of Calpine's Board of Directors more than once. Terry Brady, regional president for Securitas in Walnut Creek, wrote me a letter last year stating that a thorough investigation into my concerns has been done and he is now satisfied that everything is fine.

According to Brady, the matter is now closed. But, according to me, the matter is anything but closed. Following receipt of Brady's letter I met two security guards while shopping at Hardester's Market in Middletown who work at The Geysers. I inquired of them how things had now changed at The Geysers. Guess what? I was told that nothing had changed. Everything still works the same way it always had. Well, if nothing has changed, the problems are still there. Is Brady being misleading on purpose or is he being misled? Or, are the guards who actually work at The Geysers somehow clueless as to the Securitas improvements?

We all remember the Enron scandal. That tremendous fraud set into motion by a small band of Enron employees had devastating consequences not just for Enron itself, but for the power plant industry overall. Some might say it led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis and the election of Arnold Schawarzenegger. Some might even say the Enron scandal contributed to the bankruptcy of Calpine, itself. Well, the Enron scandal did not have to happen. People got greedy. The truth did not matter. And, soon Enron was gone.

I believe Calpine deserves to make a comeback. But, that comeback is not going to be successful if there is a fraudulent security operation at The Geysers.

I call upon all concerned citizens of California to the write Judge Burton R. Lifhand of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Sourthern District of New York, One Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004-1408 and demand that Calpine rid itself of Securitas and get a professional security firm to take its place.

The best alternative I am aware of is Wachenhut Corporation in Sacramento. This firm, based in Florida, has actually been honored with a Certificate of Conformance by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.

For the record, I am doing my part by notifying government officials and people in the news media as well as Judge Burton R. Lifhand. I welcome the support of Californians who believe as I do that cosmetic security has no place in a post 911 world. We deserve REAL SECURITY at every power plant facility in America. Since The Geysers does not have it, the time has come for change.

Lamar Morgan formerly worked in security at Calpine's operation at The Geysers. He lives in Middletown.


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