PG&E’s Initiative to Limit Access to Public Power Qualifies

Pacific Gas and Electric has been known to dabble in politics a bit.  Just a smidge. Anyway, their latest dabble is what they are calling the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act.”  Yesterday, it qualified for the ballot:

A ballot measure, backed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., that would limit the ability of California cities to go into the public power business has qualified for the June election, according to the secretary of state.

The measure would force local governments that want to compete with PG&E to win the approval of two-thirds of their voters first. The utility, California’s largest, is fighting efforts by San Francisco and Marin County to start buying electricity on behalf of their residents, taking over a role long held by PG&E. (SF Chronicle)

Now, there are many, many interesting things about this, and many, many reasons for progressives to oppose the measure. First, despite the lovely name, an obviously conservative frame, the measure does anything but give the taxpayers the right to vote. It requires a 2/3 majority of VOTERS to approve of community choice aggregation, a system that would allow municipal authorities to compete with the big power companies.  Let me repeat that. Not only is this another ridiculous supermajority requirement, this is a 2/3 supermajority requirement of the voters. Frankly, that so rarely happens on any issue. And for some reason, we want to let the voters of California take away basic civil rights (Prop 8) at a lower threshhold than can opt to start a public power alternative? Does that strike anybody else as insane?

But, there’s a back story that goes deeper than just that.  PG&E had pledged back in the early part of the decade that they wouldn’t fight Community Choice Aggregation as a way to get some help out of Sacramento during their bad times post-power crisis. Yet here they are, fighting community choice aggregation.  Not only in the form of this initiative, but also by fighting San Francisco and Marin county efforts to get CCA tooth and nail. In short, PG&E has been your typical everyday mega-corporation. It is acting as a sociopath who ignores their past statements when inconvenient and the deals that they brokered in pursuit of one goal and one goal only: shareholder profit.

Let’s allow our elected representatives to govern already, and quit it with adding more super-majority requirements.

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4 thoughts on “PG&E’s Initiative to Limit Access to Public Power Qualifies”

  1. I will do what I can to oppose it and encourage national environmental groups to do the same.  

    The initiative could block not only community choice aggregation, but also distributed power, which is energy-geek-speak for local power not necessarily tied to a national grid.  If we all had local power, there would be a lot less effort to pit environmentalists against each other in the Mojave Desert.  

  2. Not sure where I am on this initiative, but PG&E is a strong supporter of AB32, the global warming law. It also has done a lot on renewables. Go easy.

  3. I can almost guarantee that there will be official, active  Green Party opposition to this one.  

  4. This isn’t the exception to how government operates, this is the rule.  The rich and powerful have made an art of co-opting government power for thier own purposes.  Your suggestion that we allow our elected representatives to govern won’t solve the problem — it just shifts the venue.  After all, it’s the elected representatives who were placed in those positions by the rich and powerful in the first place.  There is no complete remedy to this problem.  The best we can do is limit the size and scope of government so that there is less power to co-opt.

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