PG&E boss says it’s all about shareholders

Former California Energy Commissioner John Geesman has been tearing it up on his blog, “PG&E Ballot Initiative Factsheet.”

He just posted an excerpt from a March 1 PG&E shareholders meeting in which PG&E Corporation’s CEO Peter Darbee tells the origin story of Proposition 16, the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act.” That’s the June ballot measure which would make it a lot tougher for people to form or expand local public power utilities.

In his remarks, Darbee says pretty plainly that it was SMUD and the campaign for public power in Yolo County that made the PG&E honchos think there must be a better way. You’ll recall that in 2006, several cities (Woodland, Davis and West Sac) in Yolo invited SMUD to take over providing electricity there, hoping they could get cheaper rates and greener power.

But PG&E spent $15 million putting down the Yolo rebellion at the polls. And Darbee knew it wasn’t going to be the last time PG&E would have to defend its turf. San Francisco keeps pushing for public power. Another movement was underway in South San Joaquin County, and a successful public power bid was coming together in Marin County.

“And the idea was to diminish, you know, rather than year after year different communities coming in as this or that and putting this up for vote and us having to spend millions and millions of shareholder dollars to defend it repeatedly,” Darbee explained.

“It was really a decision about [whether we] could we greatly diminish this kind of activity for all going forward, rather than spending $10 [million] to $15 million a year of your money to invest in this.”

Gee, I thought this whole thing was about my “right to vote.” Darbee’s comments make it sound like it might really be about what’s best for the shareholders.

I also thought Darbee’s rationale for going to the ballot this June was pretty interesting.

“The June time frame looked ideal and in the context of what everything that is happening with government today—the dysfunctionality of it—we concluded that it was a very ideal time,” he told his shareholders.

In other words, with local governments having to cut budgets to the bone right now, and people being generally stressed out and confused, voters are more likely to buy in to PG&E’s anti-government argument.

The company’s already pumped $15 million into Prop. 16, and has pledged to spend up to $35 million. The “no” side has come up with about $20,000 so far. Got to like those odds.

Compiled from Snog.