Bush and the Hetch Hetchy mystery: Who do you suppose put that mysterious pro-PG&E line in Bush's $2.9 trillion budget?

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By Bruce B. Brugmann

Well, there it was in the Chuck Squatriglia story in the Feb. 7 Chronicle: the mystery story with the mystery headline: "Hetch Hetchy line in Bush's budget blasted."

The lead continued the mystery story with a mystery lead: "A single line deep within President Bush's $2.9 trillion federal budget has renewed the debate over draining the Hetch Hetchy Valley and returning it to its natural state."

The second paragraph added some mysterious detail to the mystery: "The president set aside $7 million within the National Park Service budget to 'support Hetch Hetchy restoration studies' that would explore the environmental and recreational benefits of draining a reservoir that provides water for 2.4 million Bay Area residents."

In the second to last paragraph in the story was yet another mysterious paragraph that added to the mystery: "No one at the Department of Interior or within the Park Service or the Office of Management and Budget, which compiles the president's budget proposal, could say who included the Hetch Hetchy item in the spending plan or why."

Gosh, golly, gee: How in the world did a line asking for funds to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley get into the federal budget of one of the most anti-environment presidents of all time? The Chronicle and everyone else who covered the story without gulping, including the Sacramento Bee/McClatchy papers and their self-immolating tear-it-down-and-damn-the-consequences position. could not come up with the answer. Nobody even seemed to try or disclosed who they called or what anybody told them or indicated how hard the papers tried to tackle this tough Washington story with a big local angle. Nor did the papers call anybody from the public power forces to see if they had a clue or a comment.

Well, we have a clue. Bush is no sudden born again environmentalist and he doesn't really give a damn about opening up a dammed up valley in a national park. "But," as our Wednesday editorial states, "he's a hell of a privatizer, and supports almost anything that shifts public resources into the hands of profit-making companies. And blasting the city's water and hydropower dam into dust would be a huge favor to one of the nation's largest private power companies--and a huge blow to public-power efforts in San Francisco."

The federal Raker Act that allowed San Francisco to dam Hetch Hetchy Valley for water also mandated that the dam generate electricity, and that the cheap power be sold to the residents and businesses of the city as a public alternative to PG&E's private monopoly. Thus, PG&E would be the biggest beneficiary of any restoration project.

Once again, I am curious why the restore Hetch Hetchy forces are so adamant on restoring Hetch Hetchy, but seemingly not as interested in other major environmental issues. Why do they not put at least comparable energy into saving and taking back the Presidio? Or properly funding the other major longtime maintenance problems at Yosemite? Or helping stop the moves to privatize the national park system and other public assets? Or moving to stop and/or criticize and confront the many moves of the Bush administration to turn back the clock on the environment and environmental protections?

All of these issues, let me emphasize, are not important to PG&E and its allies except to help PG&E's astroturf green campaign to stop the inroads of public power and enforcement of the Raker Act to bring our own Hetch Hetchy public power to our own people in San Francisco. Repeating for emphasis: PG&E would be the major beneficiary of any restoration project. Anybody have any other suggestions or ideas? B3

Professional note to Hearst corporate in New York via Chronicle/Hearst publisher Frank Vega and Editor Phil Bronstein: Isn't it about time, after all these decades of abject Hearst obeisance to PG&E, to allow your reporters and editors in San Francisco to tell the truth and do the real story about the PG&E/Raker Act scandal. (See Guardian stories and editorials going back to the pioneering story of Professor Joe Neilands in the l969 Guardian). B3, who is for restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley only after public power and real environmental reform come to San Francisco under the public power mandates of the Raker Act and a U.S.Supreme Court decision, much more to come, stay alert

P.S. Ever wonder why the Washington press corp and the mainstream media couldn't figure out what Bush was up to with his propaganda march into Iraq? And why they now are having so much trouble with those anonymous military sources who are now beating the tom toms about Iran influence in Iraq? Go back and read this story again and follow our coverage on what we consider to be the biggest scandal in U.S. history involving a city. The PG@E/Raker Act scandal is also, let me emphasize, one of the most censored stories in U.S. history. Details to come.

Idle question: do you suppose those "competitive" Dean Singleton papers down the Peninsula, in the East Bay, in Marin, all over the place, will pick up on the mystery and figure it out?

SFBG ONLINE: Bush's big favor to PG&E

Modesto Bee-Hetch Hetchy Editorials