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PG&E’s style of doing business: Break the rules & then apologize

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POSTED May 17, 2010 1:48 a.m.
PG&E’s brass will do whatever it takes to protect their multi-million dollar compensation packages whether it is breaking laws, distorting the truth, or leading an effort to amend the California Constitution to shore up their monopoly.

The latest came last week in Marin County where PG&E once again put themsleves above the law. After being ordered by the California Public Utilities Commission director not to send letters to Marin residents that look like official opt out notices for the fledging Marin Energy Authority, PG&E sent them out anyway.

That prompted a terse follow up from the CPUC informing PG&E they could face fines for ignoring the directive.

PG&E a day later issued a press release contending the letter had been sent by mistake and that it “should never been mailed.”

Helen Burt, PG&E’s senior vice president and chief customer officer. was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying, “We are now looking into how this happened and how to prevent it from happening again in the future.”

Like that is going to happen.

PG&E has a track record of ignoring state laws and then paying follow-up fines and writing it all off as a cost of doing business. Such was the case in not one but two elections in San Francisco where the California Fair Political Practices Commission slapped PG&E with large fines for violating state campaign laws while fighting a bid by San Francisco to form their own retail power system.

This is the company that wasn’t exactly forthcoming about hexavalent chromium poisoning in the water supply of Hinkley. That same candor is seen today in their desire to amend the constitution to require super majorities to allow local governments to enter the retail power business.

Of course you’ve got to ask why there are grass roots movements to break out from beneath PG&E if the company is so wonderful. Could it be that Northern California enjoys some of the nation’s highest power costs despite an abundance of hydroelectric power or could it be the fact that documentation by the CPUC shows PG&E is by far the least reliable of all of the state’s major utilities? Of course, it was able to reach such a lofty distinction by systematically cutting back on the PG&E rank and file as cost savings moves during its near plunge into bankruptcy.

That brings us to one of PG&E’s wonderfully misleading pro Proposition 16 spots.

PG&E is claiming that we can’t trust “politicians” who de-regulated electricity and created the California energy crisis. Gee, guess who lobbied the California Legislature like there was no tomorrow to get the energy business deregulated? Would it surprise you if it was PG&E?

Not only that, but then PG&E created a holding company out-of-state to sell itself to itself so it could re-depreciate its assets and force ratepayers to cover the cost of acquiring itself.

It is always interesting when PG&E mouthpieces slam South San Joaquin Irrigation District for using “tax dollars” to try and enter the retail power business to lower rates for existing PG&E customers by at least 15 percent across the board in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon. While it is public money it is not tax dollars. The money they have set aside to make it work is $60 million plus that has come from running the Tri-Dam Project that they own free and clear in conjunction with the Oakdale Irrigation District. That money was set aside in just the past five years or so after they paid off a 50-year obligation bond by flawless delivery of electricity to PG&E.

PG&E in mailers has tried to argue the money could do all sorts of wonderful things for the people of Manteca. There’s one problem. The SSJID board, unlike PG&E brass, follows the law. The money can only be used for what SSJID does which is provide power and water.

The SSJID board wants everyone to reap the benefits of Tri-Dam since the bonding was secured against the entire district. Such a concept is foreign to PG&E’s brass that puts profit above people. Just ask the PG&E workers who have seen their ranks thinned by cost saving moves while PG&E’s brass bought corporate jets and passed around millions upon millions of dollars in bonuses in the executive suite as a reward for almost driving the company into bankruptcy.

Running a campaign to get people to support Proposition 16 as a way to safeguard their monopoly continues the tradition that PG&E brass have done in putting their personal interest above that of Californians.

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