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PG&E doubles its stake against local energy choice

I wasn’t keeping tabs on the state’s campaign finance database whilst floating around on the idyllic Russian River last week, but I see there wasn’t too terribly much action while I was on vacation – except the second $750,000 installment that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. laid Friday on its somewhat euphemistically named “Californians to Protect Our Right to Vote.”

As I reported in July when PG&E made its first such contribution, the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” that this committee is pushing 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. I’m pretty sure I overheard a petition gatherer soliciting signatures for this outside the Safeway in Guerneville last week (so I was paying at least a little attention during my time off). If you encounter one, listen carefully to see if it’s being pitched as a bulwark against tax hikes, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

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.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Let’s hear it for the little guys, the little greenies!
    Sure, some retirement community for ex-hippies will want to replace big bad PG&E with a hillside of twirling blades that will supply four hours of electric power every night (guaranteed or some of your money, er, not back exactly, but toward your next livestock feed bill).

  • Arne Simonsen

    Now I know why my PG&E bill is so high! I want a refund!!!