Power battle

PG&E is pushing to amend the state’s constitution—via the ballot box—to make it near impossible for publicly owned utilities like SMUD or Roseville Electric to expand into new terrain.

Why aren’t we surprised?

The private utility had the bejesus scared out of it in 2006 when SMUD—Sacramento’s nonprofit utility with its lower rates and greener energy—offered electric service to Yolo County residents. The SMUD expansion bid lost by a thin margin, mostly thanks to the fact that PG&E spent a campaign-finance record-breaking $11 million to kill it off.

But that victory wasn’t enough. Now PG&E wants to curtail the possibility of any future public-power expansions once and for all.

The utility’s so-called “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” will likely be ready for signature gathering soon; it will need about 700,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. This stinker initiative could come before California voters in June of 2010.

In addition to making it much, much tougher for communities to decide on opting for a public utility, the measure would make it hard for communities to create their own utility.

The thing should be called “PG&E’s Right to Kill Public-Power Act.” Let the battle be joined.