PG&E puts $3 million more into ballot measure

PG&E put another $3 million today into the committee it created to push a measure on this June’s ballot that would make it harder for communities to start or expand their own public utilities – essentially, to choose power other than PG&E’s.

unpluggedThe rather euphemistically named “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” would require local governments to get 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 power giant’s latest ante – almost doubling the $3.5 million it had put into the committee from July through October to qualify the measure for the ballot – comes at the end of a week in which several California newspapers published editorials (the Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee ran slightly differing versions of the same piece, and the Redding Record Searchlight had its own) taking aim at the measure, saying it’s anything but what its title implies.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Jan. 12 that the measure had qualified for the ballot – here’s a tally of the signatures gathered – and so clearly the company is now making ready to spend whatever it’ll take to protect its profits.

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.

  • Josh, maybe you can write for the SF Guardian.

    Every year in SF they go thru the same anti-PGE screed by trying to create some people’s power plant as if we can recreate the bygone days of Hetch Hetchy. Not with public employee unions running things.

    I can’t wait for Contra Costa or State of California to run its own power company. They’ve been so efficient running everything else, it only seems natural.

    Instead of bemoaning PG&E protecting its profits (just like you’d love to protect your paycheck), let’s talk about the 2,000% increase in pension costs just for state workers while state revenue only increased 24%.

    Instead of bitching about PG&E, let’s vote on the fairness of 15,000 California state retirees making over 100,000 a year and the protected status for public employee union members when everyone else is facing, realistically, 17 percent unemployment.

    And instead of yapping about the $3.5 million PG&E spends on its own constitutional right to free speech, let’s examine the $3 Billion California spent this year just for pension shortfall payments.

    Those that promote Public Power emit nothing but Natural Gas.

  • Josh Richman

    Jeez, Bill, OK, I get it — you hate the idea of public power. What, does PG&E advertise on your site or something? (Just kidding; I’m sure it doesn’t.) Take a deep breath, relax; it’s the weekend!

    PG&E certainly has every right to spend its money as it pleases, and I expect it would act to protect its profits as any corporation would. But shouldn’t people know what the measure does, and who’s paying how much for it?

    And how does this have anything to do with the pension crisis? Are you saying public power can’t work only because of public employee unions?

  • John Abbott

    Bill Gram’s comment is a good example of conservative attack methods. [1] Omit any facts. In fact, both the Sacramento Municipal Utility District [SMUD] and the East Bay Municipal Utility District [EBMUD] deliver electricity at considerably lower rates than PG&E. [2] Attack the messenger, not the message; never debate the merits. When someone else has a different opinion, he must be biased, blinded, or both. [3] Change the subject, in this case to public employee pensions. Actually, both SMUD and EBMUD have public employee unions, who work for lower pay in return for better benefits.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Does PG&E have the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms, establish a religion, or marry Southern California Edison? If the latter, which is female, and which is male? Or for that matter, now that BofA owns a significant part of BANG, how will BofA influence editorials in newspapers in which he/she advertises?

  • What’s wrong with being emphatic and thorough? Just take your lumps for trying to slip simpering anti-corporate “news” into the weekend cycle.

    Why does it have to be public power, first of all?

    Not just public employee unions, but pols and bureaucrats would get in the way of any innovation.


    or this


    PG&E ad coming soon. If only your guys could sell.

  • Josh Richman

    You slay me, Bill. Don’t ever change.

  • CargoCult

    Doesn’t really matter who owns it, if the energy has to be imported then the state will continually rely on tose imports, and without electricity, the water doesn’t flow very well…

    Of course, PG&E and SCE want to be the ones selling you the electricity, but maybe this all begs the issue – maybe what is needed is a public GRID – one which allows numerous buyers and sellers to buy and sell power generated from sources ranging from solar to wind to biomass/biofuels.

    The real question then, is this: assuming that statewide reserves fossil fuels will eventually be exhausted, a reasonable assumption, how much renewable energy capacity in-state is going to be needed to meet electricity demand under that scenario?

    For example, let’s say Interior Valley farmers want to set up solar panels, use the power for their agriculture operations, and then sell the excess power to their local township – if it’s a free market economy, why should the grid be under private control?

    That’s like the old Coal Barons of Newcastle, who controlled the market by controlling the rivers and roads – similarly, why should farmers invest in solar, if they can’t all sell power down the road?

    Think about it – a state-wide tax-payer financed public grid, serviced by various private suppliers…now, PG&E and SCE are not going to like losing their control of the electron highways – then, they’d become just another seller – but that is the best way to open up the market to renewable competition.

    However, this approach does require the ability to store up intermittent energy and then release it on demand – something our aging grid isn’t capable of, and even though the technology is almost there for wide-scale use, it’s still a bit of science fiction – less so than the space-based solar that PG&E was trotting out, however.

  • Right John. And guess who ultimately is subsidizing all that cheap water, power and pension costs.

    And we even get the old “we turn down higher salaries (ha!) for better pensions”…no kidding…the kind that are bankrupting every government agency in California starting next week with LA.

  • EBMUD alone is now looking for a co-signor as it applies for an additional $1B in federal subsidies to be added to the $3B bond debt it already carries


    Oh wait…bonds are free!

  • Hey Josh

    How do we know that PG&E put another $3.5 million in? I’m being by a legislative analyst in on the cities in which Community Choice Energy is still in play as long as this initiative does not pass.

  • Josh Richman

    @Dave: See the contributions here.