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SSJID ponders opposing PG&E ballot measure
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• WHAT: Proposition 16
• WHO IS BEHIND IT: PG&E has paid 100 percent of the $6.5 million tab to qualify it for the June 8 ballot and is prepared to spend $30 million to convince the electorate to vote for it.
• WHAT IT DOES: Requires a two-thirds vote for local agencies to enter the retail power business

Language in PG&E’s $6.5 million gambit to prevent local jurisdictions from entering the retail power business under a ballot measure the company embraced in 2002 may make it difficult in the future for South San Joaquin Irrigation District to add additional power load should they secure the ability to sell power directly to customers in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

Not only will Proposition 16 that PG&E authored and then spent $6.5 million to qualify for the June 8, 2010 ballot require SSJID to secure a two thirds vote to enter retail power sales even if they get the go ahead from the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission to do so, but it would also prevent an SSJID retail operation from adding power to meet growth demands down the road without going back to the voters under one interpretation of the initiative’s language.

In a nutshell, if an agency secures the ability to sell retail power after winning a two-thirds vote, they would then be required to seek a vote every time power needs increased beyond their initial power load.

The SSJID board will consider going on record against Proposition 16 when they meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the district office, 1101 E. Highway 120.

PG&E is ready to spend upwards of $30 million to push for passage of the measure. Public utilities such as SSJID are barred from spending money on campaigns either for or against measures. So far the opposition to Proposition 16 has garnered about $15,600 in donations. Most of that is coming from Toward Utility Rate Normalization (TURN) a non-profit group formed in the1970s to challenge PG&E’s rate increases. The latest PG&E rate increase request is the largest in the company’s history as it $1.101 billion more on Jan, 1, 2011.

If you’re a typical PG&E customer using 850 kilowatts hours per month that means a $17.44 jump in your monthly power bill.

And, if you use 40 therms of natural gas each month, the rate hike proposal will add $3.15 a month or 5.7 percent more to your natural gas bill. That means if PG&E is granted everything they want, you will be sending PG&E an additional $20.59 more a month in 2011 on top of what you’re paying now.

But that’s not all. You could still see more rate increases before 2011 as the request only covers the cost of delivering electricity to customers and the cost of operating PG&E power plants. It does not include the cost of electricity that PG&E purchases to resell to customers as such costs are recovered in separate rate proceedings.

State law that PG&E and other utilities lobbied to obtain, would mean $127 million of the $1.101 billion rate increase will go to PG&E’s shareholders and other “profit” related items such as multi-million dollar bonuses for its top executives at the same time the company continues to shed front-line employees and close PG&E service offices in communities.

By statute, PG&E is allowed to take 11.45 percent of their revenue and pocket it in some form whether it is dividends or bonuses. The “profit” doesn’t go to capital outlay as rate increases granted by the CPUC take care of that as well as help cover costs when PG&E losses wrongful death claims such as a year ago Christmas Eve when they were found negligent in the natural gas explosion that killed a Rancho Cardona man and severely injured two of his family members.

State senators upset about PG&E maneuvering
Nine California state senators have sent a letter to PG&E President Peter Darbee in which they called Proposition 16 “misguided as a manner of public policy.” They referenced Assembly Bill 117 enacted in 2002 noting that “PG&E willingness to use the initiative process to unwind a carefully negotiated statue (in regards to community choice aggregation) that PG&E supported lacks the mutual respect and honor that the Legislature expects from stakeholders in the legislative process…. To use the imitative process to pursue PG&E’s self interests and avoid engaging your partners in the AB 117 agreement, calls into question your company’s integrity.”

SSJID isn’t the only agency trying to break free from PG&E.

Several agencies are trying to put together community choice aggregation operations to secure more green power under the law that PG&E helped develop and then embraced back in 2002 as AB 17.

The SSJID’s goal is to reduce retail power costs to customers in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon by 15 percent across the board.