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Don’t be swayed by PG&E’s crocodile tears

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POSTED September 6, 2009 2:14 a.m.
PG&E doesn’t think South San Joaquin Irrigation District is playing fair.

It doesn’t matter that the SSJID is exercising its constitutional authority to look out for the best interests of the community they were created to serve by petitioning the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission to enter the retail power business. And while eminent domain has nothing to do with the LAFCO decision nor is it a foregone conclusion, PG&E also thinks the taking of private property by courts for any purpose is wrong.

Someone should remind PG&E that is exactly what they do on a weekly basis throughout their territory by putting transmission and power pole lines through people’s property reducing value, aesthetics, and use as they justify taking it using eminent domain because it is “for the public good.”

Its funny how “for the public good” use of eminent domain only applies when it improves PG&E’s bottom line.

Emily Barnett – the attack dog PG&E unleashes on local public officials who dare challenge them under the enchanting title of government relations representative – told the SSJID board during their meeting Thursday that they didn’t know what they were doing. She made a point of saying the PG&E system’s fair market was $400 million because that’s what PG&E’s experts say it is worth and not the $60 million SSJID’s experts say it is worth. Then in typical Barnett fashion she tossed in a zinger: How, she asked the board, do you know the value when you can’t even see PG&E’s underground facilities?

It may interest Ms. Barnet that PG&E never paid for much of the underground stuff in the first place. It’s the real charm of operating under the protection of the California Public Utilities Commission. Developers are required to put underground facilities in and then turn them over to PG&E free of charge.  Real private businesses – those that don’t rely on the state to guarantee their 11.35 profit margin regardless of the economy don’t make customers front all the costs to put in facilities in like PG&E does it make a profit off of them – have to put their own business infrastructure in place and pay for it themselves. Not PG&E.

And who do you think ultimately pays for everything anyway? The buyers of the homes who then get to enjoy some of the nation’s highest electrical rates.

This is not the only instance of PG&E’s corporate welfare on the back of everyone else.

It wasn’t too long ago that developers put in street lights and turned them over free-of-charge to PG&E. The San Francisco-based for-profit PG&E then charged the City of Manteca $16 per street light for electricity and maintenance.

That was before the City of Manteca – much like the SSJID is doing right now – did its due diligence and discovered the people of Manteca were being fleeced by PG&E and getting lousy service at the same time. Street lights that burned out were left that way for months despite PG&E being notified promptly. Did PG&E ever credit the city for the monthly charge of each light that wasn’t working? Of course not. PG&E doesn’t have to operate like a real private sector business because they’ve got government protection. Besides, they’ve got to pay for expenses like a $12 million corporate jet plus cover the cost of the jet fuel that baby sucks up.

Anyway, Manteca – as PG&E would say – wasted taxpayer’s money on studies that showed it would save $140,000 a year. PG&E, of course, would tell you that the $20,000 could have bought 880 memberships to the Boys & Girls Club and could have picked up the salary and benefits of a Manteca Police officer for 11 weeks. Forget the fact by saving $140,000 year after year that adds up just like SSJID cutting power costs and saving people $11.7 million year after year adds up.

PG&E initially refused to sell the street lights it never paid for back to Manteca. They claimed the value was higher than what the consultant contended it was. To make a long story short, Manteca bought them for pretty close to what the consultant said they were worth and now operates the street lights at the cost of under $5 per street light each month. Manteca also contracted with a private firm that changes street lights that burn out within days for a lot less money.

Fair play, as defined by PG&E, is being able to charge sky-high prices, offer lackluster service by deliberately slashing the ranks of its construction and service crews, and then have the state guarantee their 11.35 percent profit margin regardless of the economy.
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