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Letters to the Editor, Oct. 24 - 26

Robert Demler

Sonoma City Historian

PGE? How about POU: Publically owned utility...

EDITOR: Local papers have reported that PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) may well be at fault for the recent fires in Northern California. With power poles that came down with strong but not unusual fall winds, and certainly well under the hurricane levels that PG&E claimed, it appears that once again PG&E has been negligent in maintenance. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is conducting a preliminary review of PG&E’s possible role in the fires.

With their history of fires, destroyed property, and lives lost, PG&E has proven that profits trump safety when it comes to their bottom line. And, though the PUC is often a little too cozy with PG&E, let’s put pressure on them to hold this utility accountable for whatever may be their role in these fires.

But, slapping more fines on PG&E for their latest display of negligence is not going to change anything. Fines are part of doing business for large corporations like PG&E. Since fines haven’t worked in the past, expecting them to work in the future is like expecting the proverbial pig to fly.

When it became known that PG&E might be responsible for the recent fire, their stock plummeted 23 percent. So, here is our great opportunity – one that might not come again for many years. Let’s lobby the state of California to buy PG&E – at a fire sale price, of course – and render it a publically owned utility!

We have examples that can shed light on such a maneuver. Established in 1902, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is the largest municipal utility in the United States. Because it is a publically owned utility, it did not suffer the sky-rocketing energy bills in 2000 and 2001 that Enron foisted on the rest of us who received utility bills from privately owned companies. The problem with private utility companies is that profit tends to trump public safety. We can no longer afford this type of business practice when our very lives may be at stake.

In Sonoma County, which is still reeling from the effects of a fire started 10 days ago – I am wearing a mask as I write this in my home – we voted for Sonoma Clean Power, which means that 44 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources. PG&E opposed this mix and is penalizing customers by increasing their delivery charges. Every time I ask an elected representative or PG&E why my bills have become so much higher since we voted for renewable energy, which is actually cheaper, I get convoluted answers that never seem to make sense. They have created a three-tiered billing system that seems designed to confuse the consumer because getting straight answers about it are as unlikely as getting a vegan recipe from a Texas rancher. The bottom line as I understand it is that they are charging more for delivery of energy, all so that they can continue to make mega profits while we are penalized for choosing clean energy! And, the Public Utilities Commission is letting them do it.

It’s time for PG&E to cease and desist by ceasing to exist. Let’s transform this dinosaur into a public utility before they ramp up their next PR campaign to show us how much they “care.” Let’s call our assembly members, state senators, the Public Utility Commission, and Gov. Jerry Brown and demand that PG&E become a public utility that serves the citizens of California!

Georgia Kelly

Sonoma