Commission’s got PG&E’s number

A report by the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) this week pokes a giant hole in one of PG&E’s most compelling arguments against a public-power takeover in its Yolo County territory.

For months, the shareholder-owned utility has warned Sacramento and Yolo residents that expanding the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) would cost the publicly owned utility at least $500 million to buy Pacific Gas & Electric’s assets—and would lead to higher rates for existing SMUD customers. SMUD has countered that the takeover would cost only $85 million to $130 million. The report, by outside consultant Glenn Walker, comes much closer to SMUD’s assessment—putting the cost at $79 million to $154 million.

“The independent consultant has determined that PG&E is wrong,” said SMUD legal counsel Arlen Orchard. SMUD’s bill for taking over PG&E’s assets will ultimately be decided by a judge after a lengthy eminent-domain process. Orchard said that the consultant’s estimate was based partly on similar eminent-domain cases involving other utilities.

“I think PG&E is still sticking to its numbers because it knows that, unless it can create a lot of uncertainty, it’s going to lose the election.”

The report’s findings were submitted to the LAFCo members on Wednesday, April 5. The commission is expected to give its go-ahead to the SMUD expansion effort later this month. The proposal then will be voted on by Yolo and Sacramento voters in the general election in November. The PG&E-created group Coalition for Reliable and Affordable Electricity (CRAE) also has placed a measure on the June ballot that would require SMUD to hold advisory elections in its existing territory before any future expansion efforts. That measure won’t affect the Yolo public-power proposal, and Orchard called the June ballot measure “a distraction.” But CRAE spokesman Jeff Raimundo said the measure would protect ratepayers if SMUD decided to expand in the future. “We wouldn’t be surprised if there are other expansion efforts. They took over Folsom about 20 years ago, and they have had discussions in other areas, including El Dorado County.”

—Cosmo Garvin

Eco-terrorist or vegan bonehead?

Lawyers for Eric McDavid, accused of conspiring to blow up the Nimbus Dam, were in federal court this week seeking a restraining order against the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

McDavid, a steadfast vegan, said his jailers refused to provide him with meals that he could eat—like fruit, vegetables or protein not derived from animals.

“It is a health decision as well as a moral decision to eat nothing which was made with animal products,” McDavid’s lawyers argued in court filings, leaving the man “only candy, chips and popcorn” for nutrition.

Jail officials also have denied McDavid time out of his cell to exercise, according to the complaint, leaving him confined to his cell 24 hours a day.

“They could absolutely give a damn about the minimum standards of treatment,” said McDavid’s attorney, Mark Reichel. “This is worse treatment than if he’d been convicted.”

Sheriff’s officials didn’t return SN&R’s calls for comment.

Reichel also blasted the government’s prosecution of McDavid as being a case of “the government manufacturing crime.”

“This is a really corrupt prosecution,” Reichel said. The FBI used a paid informant to help in the arrest of McDavid and two-alleged co-conspirators. The young woman claimed to be a sympathizer of the Earth Liberation Front. “[The informant] provided the ideas. She provided the money and the encouragement. She was constantly harping on them,” said Reichel.

Although prosecutors have told the press that the three talked about targeting a U.S. Forest Service genetics lab in Placerville and the Nimbus Dam in Folsom, Reichel said surveillance videotape also shows the alleged eco-terrorists abandoning those targets as being too difficult. Reichel added that the suspects never figured out how to make the homemade explosives to carry out any plans. “These guys are boneheads,” said Reichel.

—Cosmo Garvin