Stop PG&E's extortion

SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO the city's supervisors signed off on a terrible deal with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and two Central Valley irrigation districts.

The deal, which involves a complex arrangement to bring Hetch Hetchy power to the city, has already cost San Francisco a fortune (see our detailed timeline and back coverage of this at And now PG&E wants to reopen the contract and squeeze even more money out of the local treasury. The giant private utility has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to void the 1988 deal and force the city to pay several million dollars more a year for the use of PG&E transmission lines to carry power from the South Bay into the city.

This is an arrogant move by a monopoly corporation that has been screwing San Franciscans for more than eight decades, and the mayor and the supervisors need to stop it in its tracks.

Let's remember: City officials have the leverage to demand that PG&E back off. Under the Raker Act of 1913, San Francisco is required to run its own public power system, and the city's been in violation since the Hetch Hetchy project was completed, in the 1920s. PG&E knows it's operating an illegal monopoly in the city, and only its money and political clout at City Hall have kept the arrangement in place all these years.

There's no reason the city has to accept this outrageous demand. Mayor Gavin Newsom can announce that he will invoke the Raker Act, ask City Attorney Dennis Herrera to go into court immediately and get a judgment ruling that PG&E has no legal right to sell power in the city, and start the process of condemning the utility's local system and taking it over for public use. The supervisors should pass a resolution calling on Newsom and Herrera to do that and asserting that San Francisco has no intention of giving PG&E an extra cent, now or ever.