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PG&E bank rolling ballot measure to force vote on power breaks
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PG&E is pushing a statewide imitative requiring a two-thirds vote before any government agency can either go into the retail power business for themselves, join an existing non-profit provider such as Modesto Irrigation District or simply break away from the for-profit San Francisco-based business.

A PG&E spokesperson says the utility is simply giving its consumers more say on how their tax dollars are spent. The initiative, though, includes all sources of public money including what the South San Joaquin Irrigation District plans to use to enter the retail power business – money earned from the generation of electricity that is sold on a wholesale basis from the Tri-Dam Project on the Stanislaus River.

There are a number of jurisdictions in California pondering pulling away from PG&E in a bid to lower power costs for their residents including SSJID and the City of Stockton on the basis electricity is an essential commodity just like water and sewer.

“PG&E never has an election to decide how to spend ratepayers’ money,” SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields said. “PG&E never has an election to allow consumers to decide who will serve on their board of directors. PG&E never has an election when it uses eminent domain powers to take people’s property.”

PG&E is a quasi-public agency as power providers are the only for-profit concerns that are conferred eminent domain rights to seize property to minimize their costs in providing power. PG&E has a substantially higher use of eminent domain than most government agencies.

Shields said the move by PG&E is simply an attempt to thwart competition.

The SSJID contends they can lower rates in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon 15 percent across the board plus substantially upgrade the reliability of service.

Shields noted PG&E has a record of doing whatever it takes to sidetrack competition especially from public agencies that aren’t worried about maintaining the 11.45 percent profit margin that PG&E is guaranteed by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission has twice fined PG&E for illegal campaign practices involving two separate elections where it fought against San Francisco ballot measure to have that city enter the retail power business.

In a deal to end a lawsuit, PG&E paid SSJID to make it whole for its legal costs and security measures needed after a contractor PG&E hired hacked into sensitive files via a wireless connection in the SSJID’s Manteca office. The files pertained to SSJID’s effort to enter the retail power business.

PG&E originally wanted the measure that could appear on the June 2010 ballot to read “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act.”

Attorney General Jerry Brown determined that was an extremely misleading name. The imitative has now been renamed “New Two Thirds Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers.”

The imitative needs 694,354 signatures by Dec. 21 to qualify for the June 2010 ballot.

PG&E is the only contributor to the signature gathering effort having put up $750,000 to date.