SMUD for Yolo

Yes on Measure L in Sacramento
Yes on Measures H and I in West Sacramento, Davis and Woodland

We’ve got the power.

At least we could if the voters of West Sacramento, Davis and Woodland decide on Election Day to join SMUD, and the voters in existing SMUD territory decide it’s OK for their utility to expand into what is now PG&E turf. In fact, if Measure L passes in Sacramento, and Measures H and I do the same in Yolo Country, we’ll be looking at the largest California public-power takeover in decades.

We’d sure like to see this happen.

PG&E claims the annexation try is a “hostile takeover,” a kind of public theft of what’s rightfully theirs. But SMUD backers characterize it a bit more accurately when they call it a ratepayer revolt. It’s no secret to PG&E customers in Yolo County that they now pay an average of 30 percent more for their power than people who live in SMUD territory.

PG&E contends that annexation is highly risky, mostly because it’s going to cost SMUD much more than the $85 million its experts estimate it will take to pay a fair-market price for the private utility’s wires, poles and transformers. PG&E says the cost will be more like $520 million. Now, there is no doubt that the final cost of annexation will have to be arrived at in the courts in an eminent-domain lawsuit. But the private utility’s number is sky high and hard to justify. An independent consultant hired by Local Agency Formation Commission concluded the final cost would be $110 million—lots closer to the SMUD estimate. So a number like the one LAFCo came up with is most likely on the cost front.

But it’s not all about the money.

Annexation is also on the ballot because Yolo ratepayers want fairness and accountability in their power provider. A for-profit corporation, PG&E is an entity that does what corporations do: make profits for its stockholders. During the energy crisis in 2001, PG&E filed for bankruptcy and made its customers pick up the check, while company execs walked away with millions. PG&E representatives say their company has undergone a sea change in corporate philosophy since then, and we hope this is true. But it’s hard to take that on faith and it doesn’t, in any case, change the fundamental relationship between a private corporation and its ratepayers.

A public not-for-profit utility, SMUD is operated by an elected board of directors. Instead of going to execs and stockholders, SMUD revenues get returned to customers via lower rates all around. Period. That’s why the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and the city governments of West Sacramento, Davis and Woodland each voted unanimously (19 to 0!) to invite SMUD into their territory.

Now there are risks to any change. But the fear tactics and campaign rhetoric we’re getting from PG&E as the campaign winds to a close should be taken with more than a grain of salt. Ultimately, the risks seem modest compared to all the certain gains. So join us in voting to get the power. Support the expansion of SMUD into Yolo County.