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PG&E can expand without public vote if Prop. 16 passes
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Voters won’t be able to say “yea” or “nay” to any PG&E proposal to extend electric service into new territory or expanding its system to serve additional customers should the measure the for-profit utility authored on the June 8 ballot - Proposition 16 - pass.

The measure imposes a two thirds approval of voters on municipal governments in a position to enter into the retail power service to provide lower rates than PG&E. Educational literature sent out by South San Joaquin Irrigation District this past week notes that PG&E is imposing no such restriction on itself in its bid to amend the California Constitution.

PG&E has spent $44 million so far in its bid to get voters to approve their measure.

The mailer notes that currently municipal agencies with the ability to lower power rates either secure approval by a simple majority of the voters or by a vote of governing boards elected by voters such as the SSJID board.

The City of San Francisco, for example, has had two elections in the past 12 years about going into the retail electric business using power generated from Hetch hetchy as the foundation of a business plan. PG&E, in both cases, conducted campaigns to successfully defeat the measures although in each case the California Fair Political Practices Commission slapped the utility with large fines for violating state campaign law.

PG&E Chief Executive Officer Peter Darbee at a shareholders gathering on March 1 readily admitted the company’s main reason for pursing Proposition 16 was not to protect voters rights as their campaign blitz has emphasized but to substantially reduce the chance that jurisdictions such as San Francisco will ever again try to break away from PG&E.

“The idea was to diminish (it), rather than year after year different communities coming in and putting this up for vote and us having to spend millions and millions of shareholder dollars to defend it repeatedly,” Darbee said based on a transcript of the meeting. “We thought this was a way we could diminish that level unless there was a very strong mandate from voters that this is what they wanted to do.”

SSJID has indicated they can improve the quality of servcie and lower rates by 15 percent across the board using the financial foundation provided by Tri-Dam Project net receipts that is allowing the district to squirrel away $12 million plus a year. To date, the district has over $60 million in undistributed reserves to go toward entering the retail power business.