Yes on 16 poaches supporters, No on 16 snags Pelosi, and SFPUC disputes Matier & Ross
On the brink of the June 8 election, the clock is ticking before the moment of truth on Proposition 16 -- Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s anti-competitive ballot initiative, which has earned widespread criticism for aiming to snuff out competitive community-choice aggregation programs to put a lock on its own power monopoly.
Over the weekend, Speaker of the House and San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi came out against Prop 16. “I have long supported public power. Proposition 16 would make it more difficult for communities to choose more renewable energy through public power,” Pelosi said in a statement. “I join the environmental community, energy policy leaders, the California Democratic Party, the California Labor Federation and newspapers across the state in urging Californians to vote ‘NO ON 16!’”
Meanwhile, the PG&E-funded campaign supporting Prop 16 appears to have poached the online identities of some opponents in order to make their own flanks look stronger. Christy Michaels, who has advocated against Prop 16 through her work at the Corde Madera-based Sunshine Center in Marin Co., told the Guardian she was surprised when a Facebook ad featuring the photo of one of her fellow opponents popped up on her Facebook page, naming her ally as a supporter of Prop 16.
“I called her up because I thought she was confused,” Michaels explained. “I said, do you know you have an ad saying that you are Yes on 16? She said, ‘No! I’m a No!’”
The two said they believed that PG&E had utilized their photographs and information --without their permission -- in online ads that were blasted to all of their Facebook contacts, stating that they were supporters of Prop 16. Michaels discovered, to her dismay, that an ad had also been created naming her as a yes on 16 supporter, and was being sent around to all of her Facebook friends.
Michaels said she snapped photos of the web pages, and reported the incident to the Attorney General and Facebook. Michaels believes the Yes on 16 campaign got a hold of their information and friend lists when one advocate signed on as a supporter of 16 in order to see what PG&E was saying to the consumer.
“It’s alerting people to how they do this manipulation to make it look like we’re yes, when really, we’re no,” Michaels said. “They’re able to identify who are the advocates, and then they’ve targeted our market. This is how the corporate media is learning how to use Facebook.”
Calls to PG&E and Yes on 16 weren’t returned by press time.
At the same time, it appears a contract for CleanPower SF, the CCA program that has already been designated official by the state, will finally be introduced to the Board of Supervisors tomorrow. In today’s Chronicle, columnists Phil Matier and Andrew Ross tell readers that “customers will be paying considerably more than what they fork over now to PG&E” under the new CCA. But the pair doesn’t name a source, and they do not appear to have contacted anyone who has advocated for CCA.
Tyrone Jue and Charles Sheehan, spokespeople for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, disputed the claim made in Matier & Ross’ column. “We’re still confident that we’re going to have a contract that’s competitive with PG&E,” he said. The pair said they had no idea who would’ve told Matier & Ross otherwise. “Tomorrow, Ross [Mirkarimi] is introducing a resolution at roll call, along with documents that will include the contract and the term sheet,” Sheehan said. From there, legislative review of the contract will begin.
“It’s pure speculation,” Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, the city’s greatest proponent of community choice, told the Guardian when asked about the Matier & Ross story. “The fact that Matier & Ross did not speak with any of us spotlights their bias.”
Meanwhile, if Matier & Ross’s source is onto something -- which the SFPUC says they’re not -- then the speculation only deals with the cost of electricity in the short-term. If San Francisco had ownership of renewable-energy sources, the city would be locked into a golden situation once those facilities were paid off. Power sources like wind and solar would be free, compared with PG&E’s charges for carbon-based fuels. This year, PG&E is asking for a $4 billion rate hike, which will amount to a 30 percent increase over the next three years – and who knows how much more beyond that. Any price increase for CCA would have to be taken in comparison with PG&E’s rising costs. And current electiricy prices today don't factor in so-called externalities -- oil spills, asthma, rising sea levels, coal-mining blasts, or any of the other problems associated with industries that process or burn fossil fuels.
It’s sort of like this: If a family drove an unsafe old clunker that got 12 miles to the gallon, and the parents knew they were driving their kids around in a death trap that was eating their paychecks away in gasoline, they’d have to pay a lot up front for a new Prius. But in the long term, once that Prius was paid for, that family -- and the environment -- would be better off.
PG&E is sort of like that old clunker. Its business model relies on the same old fossil fuels that it always used (even now, PG&E is proposing new power plants in Contra Costa County), with plans for renewable energy development that are modest in comparison with the city’s ambitious goal of offering 51 percent renewable power. And just as a clunker comes with safety issues and an undeniable expiration date, PG&E’s power mix only helps ensure that climate change will continue unabated. If Prop 16 passes, it's broken fan belts and gas-guzzling from here on out.
"I'm hearing we have a chance," Mirkarimi noted when asked if he'd heard anything more about how Prop 16 was faring in the polls. "But we could kill it with low voter turnout."
Get out there and vote NO on Prop 16.