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Politicos Back Public Takeover of PG&E 

North Bay mayors, Supervisor Sign letter supporting utility takeover

POWERING DOWN: A letter from elected officials argues that Californians will be better served by a public, nonprofit utility.

Aleksandar Cvetanović

POWERING DOWN: A letter from elected officials argues that Californians will be better served by a public, nonprofit utility.

A group of local elected officials sent a letter to state regulators urging them to consider transforming PG&E, northern California’s controversial investor-owned utility, into a public nonprofit.

In the letter, the 27 leaders, including the mayors of Sonoma, Petaluma, Windsor and Cotati, urge regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission and Governor Gavin Newsom, argue that the two “Wall Street titans” fighting over PG&E’s remains in bankruptcy county will not serve the long-term interests of Californians.

In short, the letter argues that Californians will be better served by a public, nonprofit utility than one owned by a private company with a profit motive.

“A customer-owned PG&E will better focus its scarce dollars on long-neglected maintenance, repairs, and capital upgrade, and mitigating some part of the substantial upward pressure on rates,” the letter states.

Amy Harrington, mayor of Sonoma and a board member of Sonoma Clean Power, said she signed the letter after several years dealing with PG&E officials in her dual roles.

“Dealing with PG&E both at the city level, where we want to know exactly what’s going to be turned off is almost impossible … and then dealing with PG&E [at Sonoma Clean Power] trying to make sure ratepayers aren’t overcharged is also almost impossible,” Harrington said. “They just don’t have any real incentive to provide information to anyone.”

Except for nominal oversight from the CPUC, “They don’t answer to anyone, not really,” Harrington added.

PG&E pushed back on the letter in a statement to the New York Times yesterday.

“We remain firmly convinced that a government or customer takeover is not the optimal solution that will address the challenges and serve the long-run interests of all customers in the communities we serve,” Jennifer Robison, a PG&E representative, told the paper.

Harrington says the letter is just a first step. In the future, cities, counties and agencies like Sonoma Clean Power may send additional letters endorsing the model outlined in the letter.

For now, Harrington hopes the letter will help start a conversation about the potential benefits of a publicly-owned utility.

“The fundamental question is who should own these assets? Should it be a for-profit corporation or a nonprofit?” Harrington said.

The signatories in the North Bay so far are:
Cotati Mayor John Dell’Osso
Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett
Sonoma Mayor Amy Harrington
Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli
Marin County Board of Supervisors Chair Kate Sears

The full letter is available here.
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