More reasons why PG&E hurts the city

No blackouts here -- and no PG&E

I know that the folks in Santa Clara are just taking full political advantage of the Candlestick blackout, buy you have to admit: They have a persuasive case. Here's today's Bay Citizen:

On Tuesday, Santa Clara's mayor said his city's superior public infrastructure helped lure the Niners away from San Francisco.

“To say this would be unlikely here is too kind: it simply could not happen in Santa Clara,” Mayor Jamie Matthews said in a Tuesday interview.

Santa Clara’s publicly owned Silicon Valley Power agency runs its own power generation and distribution system, drawing on sources such as wind turbines on Altamont Pass.

“The reason they moved to Santa Clara is the reliability of our services,” Matthews said. “We have reliability in our electricity system that is unparalleled.”

Yep: PG&E's aging infrastructure and its inability to keep the lights on costs San Francisco jobs. And a reliable public system like the one in Santa Clara would help attract business. Maybe even more than tax breaks.

You paying attention, Mr. Mayor?



I get that you have off-the-wall views on most matters. No problem with that. But for some reason you reserve special venom for a specific utility company. Why?

As a consumer, they do a decent job. And in fact my bills are considerably cheaper than they were back East. More importantly, the lights come on when I want unlike, say, the city-run muni.

So why the special hatred? Is it Bruce and some incident from his distant part? Why not a phone utility? Or the garbage folks. Why electricity? Why focus on something that is mundane and ordinary?

It's just baffling to me (and I suspect most residents, since the voters have always rejected public power at the polls) why decade after decade you harp on about one medium-sized company in particular? Why the hate?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

total joke that is robbing the city and its customers blind?

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

Or are you just a sore election loser?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

people ask you questions, and instead of answering (because you know you can't) you instead mumble a bunch of bs to distract from the question

how does your irrelevant nonsense negate the fact that PG&E sucks and is ripping off San Francisco to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars with an illegal monopoly, while also killing people, and then making us pay for the damages and repairs?

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

as opposed to any other company? Especially since the general public do not appear to have any issue with the company?

I suspect the reason the SFBG is sof ar out of otuch with the views of the voters is lost somewhere in time, but I'd be curious if anyone knows for sure.

The question was about SFBg and not ;about PG&E.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

from the standpoint of a San Francisco reporter, PG&E takes the cake running away on corruption, deadly and costly accidents, price gouging, and all-around evil, and absolutely should be the main nasty corporation under attention by the local media


Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

The voters have routinely rejected public power, so I guess they think the City's government "sucks" even more, no?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

you know damned well that I have just sited specific cases (San Bruno, Hinkley, Raker Act, etc) and not simply the general, but very real fact, that PG&E just plain sucks

come on man

you are debating with adults

act like one

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

Why is the SFBG so obsessed with PG&E?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

how much more clear do we have to make it?

PG&E has had a profound negative influence on a huge number of Californians and especially on San Francisco, and is doing everything in its power to prevent a major shift to clean electricity, in the face of a global climate crisis that could destroy human civilization

if I was a local newspaper, I would devote just as much print to these realities as the Guardian has

your confusion on what is hands down the most important subject in San Francisco history, is baffling...

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

Then why does no other paper cover it?

The truth is it's some weird vendetta that SFBG has, which is not reflected in any real interest on the part of the voters.

I can think of dozens of more important issues, even for a left-wing rag.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

Why is this not obvious to you?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

I've never met a single resident of this city that thinks this is any kind of issue at all. Which is presumably why public power always loses at the polls.

This is a big issue to the extreme left-wing who, if they had their way, would have government running all kinds of things.

This is not in other papaers because not many people are interested in it. It's not news - it's a witch hunt.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

San Francisco media, including PBS/KQED is completely awash in PG&E money. How many media sources do you know who will bite a hand that feeds them that much?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

While any real journlaist will write a real story if there is one.

The simple fact is that the SFBg has a bee in it's bonnet about PG&E, but no one of the serious papers see anything here, because there is nothing here.

You're flogging a dead horse.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

doesn't powerfully influence the press?

you're funny......

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:40 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

New PG&E Chromium Plume Violations In Hinkley, CA In 2010 & 2011

You are of course, yet again, wrong.

The chromium pollution in Hinkley which PG&E is responsible for, is still escaping and PG&E is still in violation of court orders for its cleanup and abatement.

To verify this see the new California EPA report on the contamination at:

Here is the intro text to that report:

"PG&E’s Compressor Station is located approximately two miles southeast of the town of Hinkley and a dozen miles west of Barstow in the Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County. Between 1952 and 1966, PG&E used hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6, to fight corrosion in cooling tower water. The wastewater from the cooling towers was discharged to unlined ponds at the site. Some of the wastewater percolated to the groundwater, resulting in hexavalent chromium pollution. The chromium affects an area of groundwater approximately two miles long and nearly a mile wide.

Recent chromium plume migration to the northeast of the Desert View Dairy has been detected. This plume migration violates a Cleanup and Abatement Order requirement to maintain control of the plume. At the July 14, 2010 Board meeting, the Water Board adopted an amendment to the Desert View Dairy land treatment unit permit to allow additional groundwater extraction on two properties adjacent to the Desert View Dairy to the north and east to address the expanded plume in that area.

The Third Quarter 2011 Monitoring Report shows that chromium has been detected in groundwater in the north, out to at least Sonoma Street. In addition, new monitoring well data also shows the chromium plume being undefined to the east, west, and south of the Compressor Station. PG&E has been directed to continue expanding the monitoring well network to determine the extent of the chromium plume above maximum background levels of 3.1 ppb hexavalent chromium and 3.2 ppb total chromium.

PG&E is under orders from the Lahontan Water Board to stop plume expansion and clean up the chromium plume."

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

Illegal monopoly?! B.S. Prove it or shut up.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

a) The SF Guardian has done decades of repeated in depth articles showing how PG&E's monopoly over San Francisco electricity is illegal. (Apparently you only blog on the Guardian and do not actually read it...)

b) How does your little rant answer the challenge that PG&E sucks ass?

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

If so, one might reasonably counter that the damming of a pristine valley in a national park was itself an illegal act, or ar least should have been.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

The -Raker- Act is clearly being defied by an illegal arrangement with PG&E.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

So you're fine with damming pristine valleys in national parks then?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

i agree with taking down the dam

that side issue has nothing to do whatsoever with PG&E and how much it sucks

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

argument for the City running power from it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

The City's peak load is 1000 megawatts.

Getting rid of PG&E is a far bigger question than Hetch Hetchy.

As 'anonymous' stated, it is a mere a side issue.

The real question, is whether we want a murderous, polluting, rate gouging corporate monopoly to be in charge of our electricity supply.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

at least 30 years now. Europe, Asia, South America etc. Almost nobody advocated state takeover of industry any more - thatw ent out with Thatcher and Reagan.

What's it like living in the distant past?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

As has been reported clearly and repeatedly in this newspaper.

And in South America there is now a wave of governments re-nationalizing and re-municipalizing all sorts of industries quite effectively, including public utilities.

Your contention is bogus Friedmanesque legerdemain which has no basis in reality.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

few socialist places like Venezuela. Nationalization was the vogue in the middle of the last century but that was reversed from the 1970's acorss the globe.

Add in the local voters always reject public power and that nobody outside the far left thinks this is an issue, and you have an idea that is outdated and unpopular.

Nobody cares about this issue, which is the real reason why PG&E endures. The people aren't interested.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

You, are simply full of crap. You can see a huge list of historic and recent nationalizations at:

And according to the American Public Power Association there are over 2000 municipal power utilities in the U.S. serving over 46 million people.


Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

both in the US and overseas. In marked contrast to 50 years ago when power was mostly state-run.

You were born 50 years too late, my conspiratorial friend.

In any event, SF voters have shown no interest in public power.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

Which is why, after the last 50 years, the tide is turning decidedly the other way.

In fact, Boulder Colorado is latest to adopt public power, and by a public ballot vote.

And in Illinois, which just adopted a Community Choice law similar to that of California, municipalities there are rushing to set up community power programs in droves.

See the reports on the scores of cities in Illinois and other states now pursuing Community Choice at:

Instead of flinging around your little 'conspiracy theory' accusations, how about keeping your remarks to the facts you are attempting to obfuscate with vague smart ass remarks.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

the utility is run as a non-profit. That would enable prices to be dropped. Unless the enterprise was losing money, of course, in which case prices would rise.

But remember that PG&E went bankrupt a few yars ago. Had the city been running their grid, the taxpayer would have had to absorb those risks and losses.

Also, the SFBG has never really emphasized cheaper rates as the reason to switch to public power. Quite the opposite, in fact. SFBG simply want the city to retain PG&E's profits and use them to swell the public revenue account, in order to bankroll more of their pet social engineering projects and maintain unsustianable public sector employee benefits.

So I would not expect lower rates if we have public power. In fact, SF voters might actually have voted for public power if it were truly going to be run as a non-profit, which was never SFBG's intent.

All part of why the voters always reject the idea.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 10:50 am

..across the board, and usually -considerably- lower rates, than privately owned utilities.

So your comment, however long, is bogus nonsense, and not borne out by the actual facts in the real world.

And the last time voters supposedly 'rejected the idea' it was after a 10 million dollar television and glossy mailer campaign by PG&E to attack it.

If the community power side had had 10 million bucks as well, PG&E would have lost..

..instead of San Francisco.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

To your equally bogus bankruptcy red herring, municipal utilities like Los Angeles and Sacramento stayed stable and solvent during the manufactured 'crisis' under which PG&E went 'bankrupt'.

It is also notable that PG&E formed a Wall Street parent corporation during the 'crisis' and shuttled away 5 BILLION dollars into that corporation to firewall its losses.

And then PG&E stuck California ratepayers with an $18 BILLION dollar rate increase to pay for its 'bankruptcy'.

That, of course, would not have happened either, under a local community owned utility.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

Hold on. Are you implying that the mere existence of a global trend towards utilities privatization after Reagan/Thatcher is somehow evidence that privatization is a superior model? I can tell you that in the case of water privatization, which I have studied in depth, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The outcomes of the global trend towards water privatization are widespread instances of decreased water safety and quality, decreased coverage of services, drastically increased rates (often well beyond the means of the poor), over-extraction/water famine, lack of infrastructure investment, and rampant corruption. There are numerous books and reports written on the subject. (See: Lobina's "Pipe dreams: The failure of the private sector to invest in water services in developing countries" or Hall's "Privatisation, Multinationals, and Corruption," for starters).

Yes, many state-run water enterprises were privatized in the past three decades, but this trend was quite obviously driven by structural adjustment programs *forced* upon debtor countries and by the companies and individuals whom it made filthy rich. It was certainly not driven by a (non-existent) record of success and *most definitely* not by popular demand. Cochabama is only one of countless examples around the world where privatization was massively unpopular and fought fiercely by the masses (sometimes to the death). I can't recall a single incidence where people actually wanted their water privatized.

If for some personal reason you'd rather have a private corporation than the government running your utilities, fine, I guess. But the record speaks for itself. The global privatization experiment has been a disaster.

Posted by Andy on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

I would add that many years ago City Hall made an attempt at transferring control of our local San Francisco water system to the private control of Bechtel (the same corporation which tried to hijack Cochabamba's water system) and organizers and the public rose up against that move in San Francisco, and put a definite, no nonsense, stop to it.

As of the last time I checked when I made coffee today, we have a great, and pretty low cost water system.

So it would appear that community owned and run utilities are pretty popular, and work pretty damned well, here in San Francisco.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

re-discovery of the precepts of Adam Smith i.e. that enlightened self-interest always trumps a besuited bureaucracy when it comes to runnign vital services.

It wasn't a government official that invented the iphone or google. It was an entrepreneur.

Thatcher and Reagen liberated us from the curse of the civil servant - the lifer who desired nothing more than his own power and self-perpetuation.

Please tell me you didn't learn anything from the last 30 years. Are we really back in mid-1900's quasi-socialistic thinking? That would be so sad.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 5:28 pm

And the Hail the Exalted High Priest Ronald Reagan and High Priestess Margaret Thatcher. Their Word is sacrosanct! (and requires no further supporting evidence)

Oh brother, cue the eyerolls! Are we really back to Mid-1980s trickle down economic thinking? Please tell me you haven't learned anything from the failure of trickle down economics, which has left us with misery and inequality in its wake?

Privatization is the transfer of something from control by all of us, with accountability, through a representative democratically elected government... to an entity that is accountable to no one except the religion of profit. Of course it's going to leave misery in its wake. Of course it's going to cost more, be more profitable for the owners, while delivering worse and more expensive service for the rest of us! That's the whole PURPOSE of a private business, so the outcome is basic common sense!

Posted by Greg on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

Actually Adam Smith was quite brilliant, (was essentially the 'Newton' of economics) and it is, in fact, his free market theories, which formed the basis of Darwin's groundbreaking theory of evolution through reproductive competition and natural selection.

It is only modern neo-capitalists' pretzel-twisting of Smith's original ideas which have warped his precepts into a justification of the current completely screwed up hegemonic global economic system, which bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the free markets that Smith advocated.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 8:30 pm

It always amazes me when knee-jerk Randite ideologues use Adam Smith (an economist who believed that regulatory controls were essential to properly functioning markets, and who also opposed private monopolization) to justify their cartoonish views. You apparently don't know jack about the real views of Adam Smith, and get your understanding of those views solely through twisted right wing propaganda that you have foolishly absorbed and believed which -refers- to the views of Adam Smith.

Here are a couple of passages that Adam Smith actually wrote about private monopolies (which of course are the only way for private corporations - like PG&E - to run privatized utilities like water, electricity, etc):

"A monopoly granted either to an individual or to a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade or manufactures. The monopolists, by keeping the market constantly under-stocked, by never fully supplying the effectual demand, sell their commodities much above the natural price, and raise their emoluments, whether they consist in wages or profit, greatly above their natural rate.

The price of monopoly is upon every occasion the highest which can be got. The natural price, or the price of free competition, on the contrary, is the lowest which can be taken... The one is upon every occasion the highest which can be squeezed out of the buyers... The other is the lowest which the sellers can commonly afford to take, and at the same time continue their business."

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

The vast majority of monopolies are in the public sector. Where is the competition for getting a building permit, driving license or passport?

I would actually support competition in the power market, such as is practiced in various countries in Europe. It would be analogous to the way phone service works here, with different providers vying for your business.

The private/public debate is not about monopolies at all, and replacing one monopoly with another would achieve nothing except give us a more bloated pub;lic sector at a time when we need tor educe the size of the public sector.

Competition - yes. Monopolistic public sector bureaucrats running business - NO!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 8:20 am

Public entities are accountable to the public, either through elected boards or through the elected officials who oversee them. Private business is accountable to no one except the boss or wealthy investors.

It's also a completely different mandate. Public entities exist for the purpose of providing some service. Businesses do not. They may provide a service in the process of their operations, but that's only a means to an end. The primary purpose -indeed the ONLY purpose -is to make money for the owners of the business.

Thus it should not be surprising when you see the results. Each is good at what it's supposed to do. Public entities are generally good at efficiently providing a service at low cost to the public (look at public power, Medicare, the post office, national parks, whatever). Private entities are extremely efficient at squeezing money out of their customers to make a profit (think PG&E, private insurance companies, FedEx, Disneyland, etc.)

There's a place for private enterprise. Sometimes it creates diversions and trinkets that wouldn't be created under public companies. But if you want some basic service like keeping the lights on, public entities will always accomplish the same thing for cheaper.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 9:13 am

everything, which was of cpourse exactly what faield and was discredited in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Businesses are accountible too. they're accountible to their shareholders (which is all of us thru our mutual funds, IRA's and 401K's), the regulators (the government) and most importantly, it's customers. If you don't like company A, then use compnay B or C.

So again, there's an argument against monopolies but not against the private sector running almost everything.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 10:07 am

by using facile catch phrases like "almost everything" and bringing in Russia. Lets leave aside the fact that Russia is now capitalist, and socialism (even in its very imperfect form) worked better there. I think we both know that's not what I'm advocating.

Seriously, though... yes, there should be a large public sector. Doesn't mean "running" almost everything, but perhaps having a public sector option for a lot of things.

When the option is avaliable, most people choose it. Of course you can't always have a choice. It's either going to be public power or private power in a given locale. In those cases, public power simply seems to work best, if what you want is to have the lights stay on and do it safely and cheaply.

I'm not an ideologue who favors public over private in all cases. But having a large public sector involved in many services and industries is what seems to "work" best... IF the goal is for the most people to have the best quality of life. Well at least that's my goal. I suspect the goals of capitalists are different. Maybe if the goal is to concentrate resources into the hands of the winners in life, capitalism works best.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

will form companies to compete with the private sector in various industries?

Then if customers find they prefer the city company over the private company, they can simply switch.

There's no need to confiscate or drive out PG&E or any other private enterprise. The city can sinply compete. If it's good enough, as you suggest, then people will flock to it.

While if people still hold to the Reagan doctrine - that government is invariably the problem and not the solution, then they can stay private. Everyone gets what they want.

Problem? Scared to compete? Don't want to trust the customers?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

But PG&E might. How exactly would you accomplish that, given that PG&E is fighting even something as mild as CCA every way it can? If they're not scared to compete, they should let CCA happen.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

Actually, the CleanPowerSF community power program which is now moving forward in San Francisco will in fact -not- be a public monopoly, but will instead be a community co-op which will directly compete with PG&E for energy generation and electricity supply procurement.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 6:37 pm

apparently cannot run a decent transit system or fix the streets should be trusted to keep the lights on.

There is quite simply no reason to over-stress the city with services that can and are perfectly well provided by the private sector.

SFBG's real agenda, of course, is to tap into the power revenues to pursue social engineering agenda's. The voters aren't stupid, know that, and therefore always reject public power at the ballot box.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

You mean, like in San Bruno where 8 people are dead?

You mean like in Hinkley, California, where hundreds of people at least will experience serious cancer, other illnesses and death; and the pollution is -still- not properly dealt with?

You've got a very interesting concept of the words 'well provided'.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 21, 2011 @ 2:02 pm