Did PG&E Boss Admit Prop 16 Is Anti-Competitive?

That’s what a group of public utilities, led by Sacramento MUD, are alleging in a lawsuit:

A coalition of locally owned public utilities, including the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, are claiming that Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. Chairman Peter A. Darbee essentially admitted at a March 1 investor conference that Proposition 16 is designed to choke off competition….

Papers filed late Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court in the public utilities’ lawsuit to get the measure kicked off the ballot allege that Darbee acknowledged Prop. 16 aims to “greatly diminish” voting, discourage elections, and relieve PG&E of “having to spend millions and millions of shareholder dollars” to campaign against competing energy suppliers.

The admission is key to getting the proposition tossed. But it doesn’t change the fact that even without such an admission, Prop 16’s practical effect would definitely be to choke off competition and protect PG&E’s existing monopoly across much of Northern California.

They want to create a 2/3rds rule for themselves, making it very difficult for a majority of voters to create a public power district or community choice aggregation that can help deliver renewable power to localities. PG&E isn’t doing this because they care about taxpayers, but because they don’t want Davis to join SMUD, or San Francisco to finally create its own public power system, or Marin County to be able to continue running its CCA system.

Whatever the fate of the lawsuit, the right move is to reject this corporate power grab by voting no on Prop 16.

5 thoughts on “Did PG&E Boss Admit Prop 16 Is Anti-Competitive?”

  1. is one of the most brazen initiatives i’ve seen since living in California.

    it combines a generally bad idea (2/3 public vote threshold) with an anticompetitive practice (keep municipalities from competing with business) and wraps it in the mantle of fiscal conservatism.

    It’s in many ways the epitomy of what’s wrong in California politics.

  2. I wrote about this a while ago, and John Geesman, a former energy commission member, has been talking about this for a long time. Here’s the quote he found on PG&E’s earnings call from Darbee, PG&E’s CEO:

    And the idea was to diminish, you know, rather than year after year different communities coming in as this or that and putting this up for vote and us having to spend millions and millions of shareholder dollars to defend it repeatedly, we thought that this was a way that we could sort of diminish that level unless there was a very strong, you know, mandate from voters that this was what they wanted to do.

  3. I know I’m almost a century to late with this question, but it is crazy that it takes only a 50% + 1 to impose a 2/3 requirement on future voters. The rule for propositions should be that if the proposition will change something to a 2/3 requirement, it needs to get 2/3 + 1 at the polls.  How this would work in the reverse, I don’t know (e.g., going from 2/3 to 1/2).  

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