January 29, 2003

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Fund public power study

SAN FRANCISCO'S LOCAL Agency Formation Commission will meet Jan. 31 to consider funding a full-scale study on the feasibility of public power. The study is long overdue, and even though money is tight, LAFCO needs to fund it immediately.

A complete study can look at several long- and short-term options, including community aggregation, but must include a comprehensive analysis of the costs and benefits of taking over Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s transmission and distribution system and of running a city power agency. The lack of a cost-benefit study was a serious problem for the public power campaign last fall: PG&E was able to argue that Proposition D was "too costly," and the proponents lacked hard evidence to counter that claim.

With the city facing a huge budget deficit, anything that costs money is subject to attack – but the $270,000 price tag for a comprehensive study is not only reasonable, it's a prudent investment. Public power will bring the city millions in new revenue and provide a huge boost to the stagnant local economy. LAFCO has a $200,000 budget right now, and should use all of it to get the study underway, then go back to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and seek the remaining money.