PG&E’s extreme makeover - Page 3

Utility promises cooperation and green power — while delivering the same old deception and big money attacks

Rather than trying to undermine the city’s plans for the area, she questioned, “Why don’t they have the rest of Hunters Point, which are already their customers, be a green community?”
Lennar is expected to announce in the next week or two whether it will go with public power or PG&E at Hunters Point. “No final decision has been made at this point,” Lennar spokesperson Jason Barnett told us.
Yet it didn’t have to be this way. Lennar’s redevelopment project is being subsidized with public funds that could have been conditioned on public power. Even as late as Oct. 17, when the San Francisco Redevelopment Board agreed to change Lennar’s contract to let the company out of building rental units, public power could have been part of the trade-off. Agency chief Marcia Rosen did not return Guardian calls asking why the public agency didn’t take advantage of this leverage.
For her part, Leal said, “I’m not afraid of competition.” It was a point echoed by Ragone, who said Newsom believes the city shouldn’t be afraid to compete with PG&E on Hunters Point or Treasure Island or to stop a PG&E bid to help develop clean tidal power.
But Mirkarimi doesn’t necessary agree. “Why do they have that right?” he asked, arguing the city shouldn’t let PG&E take control of new energy resources or customers who should be served by public power. “The tentacles of PG&E haven’t receded any less at City Hall and we should always be on our guard.”
Leal and Ragone each acknowledged that competing with PG&E isn’t always a fair fight. After all, in addition to having the resources of nearly 10 million customers paying some of the highest rates in the country, PG&E is also alleged in a lawsuit by the city to have absconded with $4.6 billion in ratepayer money during its 2002 bankruptcy, in what Herrera called “an elaborate corporate shell game.” On Oct. 2, the US Supreme Court denied review of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling favoring the city, sending the case back to the trial court to determine just how much PG&E owes ratepayers.
That is just one of several ongoing legal actions between the city and PG&E, including conflicts over the city’s right to power municipal buildings, PG&E’s hindrance of city efforts to create more solar sites, and battles over the interconnection agreement that sets various charges that the city must pay to use PG&E lines.
A good example of PG&E tactics occurred during the July 26 meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which is overseeing work on the Bay Bridge. As part of that work, a power cable going to Treasure Island needed to be moved, but the Treasure Island Development Authority didn’t have the $3.4 million to do it.
So PG&E executive Kevin Dasso showed up at the MTC meeting with a check made out for that amount, offering to pay for the new cable and thus control the power line through which the SFPUC intends to provide public power to the 10,000 residents who will ultimately live on the island.
“This deal with Treasure Island was really egregious. They came in like a game show host and held up a check to try to stop this baby step toward public power on Treasure Island,” said Sup. Tom Ammiano, who also sits on the MTC board. “It shows PG&E is not asleep at the wheel by any means, and anybody who’s elected is going to need to stay vigilant.”
Ammiano was able to persuade the MTC to loan TIDA the money and preserve the city’s public power option. PG&E officials are blunt about their intentions. Chiu said, “We both want to provide power to Treasure Island.” So officials note the importance of being vigilant when it comes to PG&E.
“There will be other meetings where PG&E will wave around $3.4 million checks,” Leal said. “And at some of those meetings, we won’t be there to stop them.”
So public power advocates are concerned that public officials are letting PG&E rehabilitate its public image.