PG&E antes up to oppose local energy choice

San Francisco-based PG&E got locked and loaded for its latest ballot measure Friday, putting $750,000 into the “Californians to Protect Our Right to Vote” committee.

The “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” would require local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of their voters before providing electricity to new customers or expanding such service to new territories if any public funds or bonds are involved, or before providing electricity through a community choice program if any public funds or bonds are involved.

Critics say PG&E is playing on populist themes in order to block local governments from abandoning the utility giant in favor of power contracts with smaller, greener energy producers – a movement that’s been gaining steam in recent years.

The proponents have until Dec. 21 to gather the 694,354 signatures needed to place this on the ballot next year. $750,000 ain’t chump change by any stretch of the imagination, but watch for PG&E to spend a whole lot more that that on this measure as time goes by.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Cal F

    Whoa! PG&E is using bad populism to fight good populism. If the majority of voters in a community want to own their own electrical system, they should be able to do so. We have seen all too clearly the stultifying effects of a 2/3rds majority needed to raise even vitally needed taxes in this state.

  • Cynthia Koval

    This is why the utilities should never have been deregulated. The giants like PG&E can still inflict a stranglehold that is immensely harmful to consumers, communities, and the planet. Looks like we are in for a “down and dirty” fight from big energy. The citizens need to win this one. I’ll do all I can to promote distributed generation and feed-in tariffs.

  • PG&E is the largest greenhouse gas polluter in Northern California and continues to violate state renewable energy standards while cluster-bombing the Bay Area with fake solar power advertisements to make themselves look green – and now with the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” PG&E is using Orwellian faux Populism to persuade voters to hamstring local community efforts that would ACTUALLY MAKE green power happen in California. This is just the last chapter in a scandalous history of a company that continues to use Shock Doctrine techniques just a few years after being bailed out of bankruptcy (the largest in history at the time) by its ratepayers in 2003.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    What’s the advantage of a “smaller” utility?
    It won’t necessarily be “greener” than a larger entity. “Small is beautiful” has been applied to many things, but only rear-ends prove the point.

  • Cynthia Koval

    In answer to RR, Uninvited, and to put it simply, there is absolutely nothing wrong with large, except when it morphs to brawn. Decentralization is a smarter move, economically (for consumers) and environmentally.

  • Troutbum

    PG&E is a morally corrupt corporation. They purposely bankrupted the power company, sent all liquid assets to the parent company, then the officers were given huge bonuses for doing it. Then they raised rates (approved by their puppets, the PUC) to make us pay for them to reorganize. They try to counter cities and irrigation districts who want to take over their service by telling people that using eminent domain to take over their service is wrong, when they use it all the time themselves.

  • Right on, Cynthia! Also, one of the best reasons to go smaller is to get rid of ugly long transmission lines. The smaller you go, the more lines you get rid of. The whole country could go off-grid right now and do away with most of the ugly spider web.

  • Mike Bullock

    I don’t understand this “right to vote”. Didn’t the city elect the councilmembers? Don’t the elected city council members then have the right and responsibility to conduct business? What makes this issue different? This looks like a PG&E self-serving power grab. And where did they get all the money that they are going to use to try to get this to pass? I would prefer that they spend their extra money on going to renewables.

  • Elwood

    “They purposely bankrupted the power company, sent all liquid assets to the parent company, then the officers were given huge bonuses for doing it.”

    Aided, abetted and encouraged by the geniuses in our CA leg.

    So proud of the leg. Everything they touch turns to excrement. We need a part time leg. which meets only on the first Tuesday in August during leap years.

  • Arne Simonsen

    PG&E should mind their own business!

    This misnamed “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” does just the opposite and makes it more difficult for voters to get their electricity elsewhere at lower costs.

    Nice try, PG&E!

  • Cynthia Koval

    Don’t you just love the Huxley style double speak they use to confuse the public? “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act”…what a crock! The problem: Even though the internet allows the truth to peek through, as in this discussion, does this information get out to a larger audience? Our newscasts are polluted with story after story about Michael Jackson (no disrespect intended) and crime, the more sensational the better. Like Huffington said today in her blog, the corruption we are seeing now stems directly from Enron et al, only these schemes have become ever more sophisticated. And now, instead of just shareholders being swindled it’s spread to the U.S. Treasury and every tax payer. Where’s the surprise in that, when leaders of our government are interchangable with corporate honchos. This is called fascism, no? To right these wrongs in energy and all else, we need to get our democracy back.

  • Elwood

    “Like Huffington said today in her blog, the corruption we are seeing now stems directly from Enron et al,”

    Adriana is always a reliable source. Here is the rallying cry of her and her fellow travelers:


  • Ann Sakamoto

    PG&E should be ashamed of themselves for using such a title to further their own agenda.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    What’s “Huxley style double speak”?