Time warped

PG&E giveth and PG&E taketh away: If you live in Yolo County, you probably remember that the nice folks at Pacific Gas and Electric last fall gave their customers a discount because of the “heat storm” that hit the valley in July.

It was a welcome relief to those customers in PG&E territory who had to crank up the AC to survive several days of triple-digit temperatures. Of course, some cynical souls wrote the rebate off as nothing but politics, noting that PG&E was involved in a fight for its financial life at the ballot box. Ballot measures in Yolo and Sacramento counties would have turned most of its Yolo territory over to the publicly owned Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

PG&E of course said “nonsense”—that the ballot measures had no influence over the company’s spontaneous act of generosity.

So when reader John Powderly opened his electric bill last week, he was a little ticked to find an insert reading: “Notice of Application filing for recovery of catastrophic event costs.”

In translation, PG&E is asking the Public Utilities Commission for a rate increase—because it was hot. Seems some of PG&E’s transformers were damaged by the heat and the summer spike in electricity demand. The insert goes on to explain that PUC rules allow the company to squeeze ratepayers to recover costs stemming from “two declared disasters”—the winter storms of 2005/2006 and the July heatwave.

“What the …? Since when is heat a catastrophe?” Powderly asks, noting that heat in the Sacramento Valley is pretty routine.

Sort of like PG&E rate increases.

No Elk, no groves, no co-op: Bites has never been a big fan of Elk Grove. Tuesday morning brought more evidence that something is wrong with that place. The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is closing the doors on its Elk Grove location, most likely by the end of this month. The store, which opened its state-of-the-art “green building” in June of 2005, never quite caught on in the ’burbs.

SNFC General Manager Paul Cultrera blamed “market fragmentation” for the store’s poor performance. “There is so much retail growth taking place in Elk Grove that it is difficult for residents to develop shopping habits and patterns with so many options to choose from.”

Bites suspects that Elk Grove residents do have “shopping habits and patterns,” but that they skew a little more toward the area’s Trader Joe’s and Costco stores. (See “Trouble in store,” SN&R News, July 6, 2006.)

The Co-op plans to hold an “inventory reduction sale,” à la Tower Records, starting January 15.

Old School: The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is raising hell about an obscure policy of the National Park Service. Rangers and guides in the Grand Canyon National Park are prohibited from telling visitors how old the canyon is.

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” said PEER’s executive director Jeff Ruch in a statement last week.

You’d think that the age of the Grand Canyon is a pretty essential part of understanding how it got there. But Bites can see the problem with taking any official view that the Earth is more than a few thousand years old—kind of screws with Biblical time scale.

On the other hand, the NPS is happy to sell a book in its park bookstore that claims the canyon was created by Noah’s flood.

Bites suggests that we just put a fence around the thing and not let anybody go near. It just raises too many unpleasant questions. We probably ought to do the same with the La Brea Tar Pits and Moaning Cavern, too.