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.