Tag Archives: public power

PG&E Won’t Let Polling Numbers Get in Their Way. They’ll just Buy a Win

Interesting polls, updates and the like often find their way into my inbox. Much of it goes onto the pile of “to be written about,” but time keeps eluding me on actually getting to the bottom of that stack.  One such item cannot allude me any longer.  It is a poll from Goodwin Simon Research on PG&E’s Prop 16, the measure that would require supermajorities to vote in favor of adding any new customers to municipal power systems.

The news ain’t good for PG&E. From a simple reading of the ballot title & statement, they’re in a pretty tough spot. Just 21% of voters support Prop 16 from just that information.

The pollsters then tossed in a pro-PG&E statement pulled from their ballot argument, “Proposition 16 would “require a city or other local government to get a two-thirds vote of its people before it could use public funds to provide or expand new electricity service to residents and business.” After this, only 32% support, with 42% opposing.

These are horrific numbers to start off a campaign with. But, if you’re PG&E and willing to plow $6.5 million of your ratepayers money, no mountain is too steep of a climb. As of right now, there’s not much of a No campaign, but it wouldn’t be that hard to get one going. You wouldn’t need to match PG&E just have enough to let people know what a dud this truly is.

Interestingly, I heard that when they were designing the initiative, they tested 2/3 and simple majority, and 2/3 tested better. Folks, we have a long way to go.

Prop 16’s Massive Drafting Errors and how the Chamber Conveniently Overlooked Them

John Geesman, a former California Energy Commissioner, has been tracking PG&E’s naked power ploy, Prop 16, for a while now. You can find his writings at the PG&E Ballot Initiative Fact Sheet.  In a posting from yesterday, he tears into the California Chamber of Commerce for endorsing it. Apparently, the Cal Chamber hasn’t bothered to read the measure before they just sorta agreed to do PG&E’s bidding.  PG&E is, of course, a big contributor to the CalChamber.

The statewide California Association of Realtors  last week took a formal position against the PG&E-sponsored initiative, while some months ago — before it even qualified for the ballot — the gullible State Chamber endorsed it.  

{However,} the drafting error, a failure to clearly define what constitutes the “new customer” that triggers an election with a 2/3’s vote requirement — which strikes terror into the heart of every realtor with a listing or a buyer in any of the 48 effected communitiesis probably an even bigger threat to new or relocating businessesin those same locales. Analysis of wording flaws here and here.> (PG&E Ballot Initiative Fact Sheet)

That drafting error could end up making for a whole mess of litigation.  While PG&E certainly didn’t intend it to be an anti-Walmart tool, it could end up being just that.  It’s almost enough to make you think about supporting this mess.  Think about it. Walmart wants to open a new store in say, Sacramento, where there is a public power provider.  Sure, it’s not like progressives would want to mess with the local public power provider, but a tool is a tool, right?  Of course, it could end up fighting more than just Walmart, and could morph into a NIMBYists dream.

PG&E went out alone on this measure, and the language is just terrible. Riddled with errors, and the concept itself is just loathsome. Introducing a new constitutional amendment for a supermajority election requirement? Yikes!

All of this is happening as San Francisco looks to finally kick their Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) into gear, and as Marin County just signed their power contracts.  This is a petty move by PG&E to bring their San Francisco fight to the whole state. It’s shortsighted, but they’ll have millions of dollars to pass this stinker. There won’t be a lot of money opposing it, just common sense. So, be sure to tell your friends of all political persuasions just how ridiculous this one is. Defeating this one is going to have to go grassroots-style.


“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.”

-Brian Leubitz

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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