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Time to end PG&E before PG&E ends Northern California life as we know it
trench power
Underground power lines are being placed in a trench.

Are you willing to fork out another $6,000 to PG&E over the next 10 years or so just so they can keep high-priced CEOs swimming in money?

The $6,000 is on top of the bill ratepayers will foot for PG&E to play catch-up with power pole replacement and system maintenance they cut back on for years despite asking and receiving rate increases to do the work. That money instead went to fatten Wall Street hedge fund portfolios and the personal wealth of those occupying the executive suites at 555 Beale St. in San Francisco.

It is also on top of expensive green power deals the for-profit utility made with the California Public Utilities Commission in cahoots with the California Legislature as well as governors forcing them to do with the proverbial gun pointed at their head.

Of course, the more expensive, the more PG&E pockets in profits under CPUC rules.

The latest PG&E initiative to make sure 16 million Northern Californians can forever enjoy the highest electric bills in the universe is the $30 billion baby that CEO du jour Patricia Poppe wants to deliver on behalf of the Wall Street vampires and corporate suite enablers who feast off the working poor in farm towns such as Delano and struggling families in Manteca and Lathrop.

Poppe wants to bury 10,000 miles of its 80,000 miles of low voltage distribution lines over the next few years to reduce the risk of wildfires.

To quote the patron saint of PG&E stockholders, “It’s too expensive not to do.”

The CEO of the corporation that is a leader in committing manslaughter, blowing up neighborhoods, creating cancer clusters, burning customers out of their homes, and wiping entire towns off the face of the earth wasn’t  referencing death and destruction that a long line of CEOs like her have left in their wake.

No, she was referring to the ability of PG&E to keep getting away with its business plan it has honed over the last 20 years. It is a simple plan. Ask for a rate increase to replace 70,000 power poles you allowed to go way past their useful life. Wait for the blind mice at the CPUC to grant them the rate increase. Divert the money for the poles to more pressing matters such as corporate jets, executive suite bonuses, and lining the pockets of cronies on Wall Street. Then ask the CPUC for another rate increase to replace the power poles they never replaced with the previous rate hike. And then the snoring CPUC lapdogs grant them another rate hike.

The $30 billion tab is on the high end of PG&E’s estimate. That said PG&E typically lowballs its grandiose endeavors so $30 billion is more likely to be burned through faster than a PG&E sparked wildfire burns through Northern California.

How this can cost you as a PG&E customer $6,000 is a ballpark figure that likely will be higher.

PG&E has roughly 5 million actual households they serve. Leaving businesses out of the equation that is $6,000 per household. The figure is more than plausible given cost overruns and PG&E’s history of playing fast and loose with safety data.

The cost would be a stranded cost meaning everyone bears the brunt of it including those getting most of their juice from their own solar.

None of this is a major concern of Poppe who wants the public to believe her first and foremost focus is protecting their interests, lives, and property.

The $30 billion underground effort would not only keep PG&E in business but also make it immensely profitable in the short-range.

That’s because they are guaranteed a 10 percent plus return on rate hikes. That means if they spend $30 billion via rate hikes to bury lines, they will pocket more than $3 billion. The loss of such easy revenue makes it “too expensive” not to bury power lines.

PG&E likely can be found guilty of criminal negligence in the deaths of so many of its customers, burn down so many homes, destroy so many towns, and scorch so many hundreds of thousands of acres of forests before its ratepayers figure the best way to end PG&E is to mount a grassroots movement to “overthrow” their lackeys in Sacramento. It would be a move reminiscent of the reform movement 110 years ago that ended the corrupt chokehold Southern Pacific Railroad once had on the Golden State.

Sacramento needs to stop conceding control of the fate of 16 million Northern Californians to PG&E.

The $30 billion plan PG&E has rolled up to prop itself up and pump up its profits at the same time cannot be allowed to be processed in a vacuum by their too-often partners in crime at the CPUC.

First and foremost the question needs to be asked if Northern Californians are going to fork over $30 billion involuntarily to invest in the electric grid, does it make sense for PG&E to continue to exist.

The second question is one of equity. Why should a struggling farmworker’s family in Mendota 150 miles and light years away financially and in terms of being at risk from a wildfire have to help shoulder the burden of burying lines in the hills north of Napa where homes are found in rolling hills thick with combustible woodlands?

Would it make more sense if $30 billion on the back of ratepayers was invested in a Marshall Plan style project that would make the reliance on large swaths of questionable distribution lines a moot issue?

How much more effective would it be to invest in communal solar panels and/or wind turbines along with storage batteries to serve homes in high risk fire areas?

Would it be better to break PG&E up by forming public-owned power co-ops, adding service areas to existing publicly owned utilities such as Sacramento Municipal Utility District, or adding electrical service to the repertoire of cities and irrigation districts?

Not only does that take out the 10 percent plus off the gross of rates paid as essentially a guaranteed bottom line profit but it invests local control in the problem.

Someone who sits in a plush boardroom hundreds of miles away and retreats at night to a mansion in Hillsborough wouldn’t see the same urgency in deteriorating power poles and limbs tangled with lines near Burney as would those running a local based power concern.

It was perhaps touching to see PG&E execs look remorseful in a Butte County courtroom. But it wasn’t their neighbors that they helped kill or their community they laid to ruins, or their acquaintances left in housing limbo for two years and counting.

Sacramento and the CPUC need to stop chugging the PG&E Kool-Aid like out of control frat boys.

PG&E does not have the best interests of its 16 million customers front and center. They are all about surviving as a corporation and pushing up profits to please the Wall Street hedge funds to such a degree that it is literally killing ratepayers and destroying Northern California.

It’s a matter of us versus them.

The plug needs to be pulled on PG&E before they pull the plug on Northern California.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at