The day after New Times reported a proposed ballot initiative pushed by Pacific Gas & Electric Company that would hinder development of nonprofit community-owned electric power utilities (“PG&E pushes vote to limit public power,” Sept. 10), the corporation ponied up $1.5 million to the committee promoting the initiative, on top of two previous contributions of $750,000 each in July and August.
The PG&E-financed Californians to Protect Our Right to Vote Coalition received the funds on Sept. 11. The committee was set up to gather roughly 700,000 signatures to qualify the proposed initiative, the “New Two-Thirds Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers Initiative Constitutional Amendment,” for a statewide ballot.
“PG&E’s massive financial backing of this competition-killing, utility monopoly protection initiative is money spent against cities, public power agencies, and the ability of communities to choose their energy service,’ said Andrew Christie, director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, one of the initiative’s chief opponents.
Though SLO County has not developed a municipal energy plan, a 2008 survey of 2,000 residents showed that 94 percent would support local government efforts to provide additional energy from such renewable resources as solar, wind, and hydro generators. When asked whether they would be willing to pay 5 percent more for energy from renewable sources, 64 percent still answered yes.
Though PG&E is free to fund its own ballot initiatives, cities and public power agencies are banned from campaigning, and public agencies are prohibited by law from spending any money on electoral campaigns.
“PG&E is touting its clean energy efforts at the same time that it’s trying to amend the state constitution to make it as hard as possible for communities to opt for better rates, local control, and far more green power and energy efficiency,” Christie said. “Hypocrisy, thy name is PG&E.”
A PG&E representative didn’t return requests for comment as of press time.