PG&E Funds $3M for Ballot Measure

By Published On: October 2, 2009

Pacific Gas & Electric upped the ante in its support of an initiative to require public utilities to get a two-thirds ballot vote in order to provide electricity to new customers. The investor-owned utility over the past two months has given $1.5 million to a campaign committee championing the measure. It chipped in another $1.5 million to the cause in September. PG&E’s $3 million is so far the only known major contribution to the Californians to Protect Our Right to Vote committee, according to campaign finance records. As of mid-July, the committee had no money in the bank, but received PG&E contributions of $750,000 on July 24 and August 14, plus the additional $1.5 million on September 11. The initiative, officially called the “New Two-Thirds Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers Initiative Constitutional Amendment,” seeks to raise the bar for public utilities to deliver power through community choice aggregation or to expand municipal utility territories through annexation. It would require communities to vote before establishing or expanding the generation and delivery of electricity or before implementing plans to become aggregate energy providers. Among the entities that would be affected if it passes are public utility districts, municipal utility districts, cities, counties, municipal corporations, and irrigation districts. Public utilities that generate and distribute their own power and cooperatives that buy blocks of power to sell to residents at a discount in competition with PG&E and other private utilities are specifically targeted by the measure. PG&E spokesperson Andrew Souvall has said that the amendment’s sole purpose is to “give taxpayers more control” over their tax dollars. Opponents of the amendment, including numerous municipal and regional public officials, as well as municipally-owned utilities, however, contend that it’s a case of PG&E trying to protect its turf and limit competition. Supporters of the measure have until December 21 to submit at least 694,354 signatures from registered voters in order to qualify for the 2010 ballot.

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