Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi led a press conference on the steps of City Hall yesterday
to rally support for CleanPowerSF and to expose PG&E’s misinformation campaign
aimed at protecting its monopoly against energy competition.
Photos by Michael J. Costa
March 24, 2010
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, members of the Sierra Club, and other members of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) yesterday held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to rally support for CleanPowerSF: San Francisco’s community choice aggregation (CCA) initiative to combat PG&E’s attempt to consolidate its monopolistic stranglehold on energy delivery in California.
CleanPowerSF seeks to “answer the question that PG&E will not,” said Mirkarimi, namely, “How do we deliver clean, green affordable energy?”
CleanPowerSF will provide San Franciscans with tangible environmental and consumer benefits that individual households and businesses could not otherwise obtain. The program aims to inject an element of competition into San Francisco’s energy markets by giving consumers an alternative to PG&E’s dirty energy generation while maintaining competitive rates and long-term stability.
SFPUC General Manager and former City Controller, Ed Harrington, weighed in with a valuable contribution arguing community choice aggregation is not about taking over PG&E.
“CCA is about CleanPowerSF buying cleaner power for PG&E to distribute. Cleaner energy at a reasonable price,” Harrington said.
Supervisor Mirkarimi said former City Controller Harrington was previously PG&E’s greatest weapon but is “now our greatest weapon.”
Tom Disher, owner of a recording studio in the City, spoke of how his small business was directly affected: “Aggregation and more local, public control of the power supply will help prevent fiascos such as the power outages of 2000 and 2001, which cost my business a lot of money and aggravation. PG&E’s subsequent bankruptcy just showed how unstable the current system is.”
Tom Disher at the podium.
Originally claiming they would agree to coexist with CCA efforts, PG&E has not only now reneged on this promise, but has gone further than anyone could have predicted in misleading the public in its attempt to win public support for Prop 16, a PG&E-sponsored measure on the June ballot intended to protect PG&E’s monopoly against energy competition from municipalities and community choice aggregators.
“This coordinated, misleading PR campaign orchestrated by PG&E and paid for with your ratepayer dollars, is purposely misleading San Franciscans by distributing outdated and inaccurate information. It is the worst example of corporate deception,” stated Mirkarimi.
Supervisor Mirkarimi was backed up by Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar and Chris Daly, who each also spoke briefly about their support of CleanPowerSF, and were united in their condemnation of PG&E and its tactics.
The company and its supporters have engaged in a disinformation campaign in an effort to confuse San Franciscans and hide the facts, and the latest full-color mailers specifically target minority communities in the City.
Supervisor Avalos claimed that, as a member of a Latino family, he received an expensively-produced brochure in the mail, claiming that his family and all other Latino families would be out-of-pocket and severely let down by a municipal power scheme. Avalos noted that the brochure was a clear indication of just how much money PG&E is willing to spend to protect their monopoly.
Supervisor John Avalos at the podium.
Supervisor Eric Mar told a similar tale of how he had received two Chinese language and two English language mailers that clearly suggest PG&E must “think that Chinese families are stupid.” He also asserted that the lies told in the PG&E mailers of a 24 percent rate hike and higher taxes (if Prop 16 was shot down and a CCA was implemented) is “a bunch of bullshit.” This was met with a rousing cheer.
Mar was followed by Supervisor David Campos, who, in a measured speech, demanded to, “Let the people choose,” saying that all those present and in favor of CCA had a “responsibility today to preach beyond the choir,” and to talk to people who have never thought about CCA. He praised the support in attendance and stressed that the effects of Prop 16 would be felt, whatever the result on June 8th, by everyone in the city: “It’s about you being in control. It’s about protecting democracy.” He finished with this thundering challenge to PG&E, “San Francisco is not for sale.”
Supervisor David Campos at the podium.
Supervisor Chris Daly was short and not so sweet in his appraisal of PG&E’s efforts to deceive voters. In response to the mailer he received, with return postage already paid, asking what he thought, he wrote, “Fuck PG&E,” and sent it back to them. This produced another rousing cheer from the assembly, and some titters.
Supervisor Chris Daly drops another F-bomb, this time aimed at PG&E.
Greenaction’s Environmental Justice and Green Energy Community Organizer Marie Harrison said she had fought for 8 years to shut down and clean up PG&E’s power plant in the Bayview.
“PG&E is about building monsters,” she said, “tell them no.” And resident advocate Jazzie Collins said that it was time for our children to have cleaner air and power, condemning PG&E’s attempts to engineer “back door deregulation” for itself, and other corporate interest groups.
Marie Harrison at the podium.
John Rizzo, Executive Committee Member of the Sierra Club, stressed that the Sierra Club has supported CCA since its inception.
“CleanPowerSF is not a takeover of the electrical system,” Rizzo said. “It provides competition and choice.” He used the example of Sacramento which, sixty years ago when PG&E was given a California franchise, opted not to use PG&E’s services.
If Prop 16 passes, Sacramento would have to go back and vote to kick PG&E out again, Rizzo said. This time, requiring a two-thirds majority threshold, it would be a lot harder. San Francisco never had a vote on whether to opt out of PG&E’s services. And if Prop 16 passes, SF most likely will never be able to shake them off.
Rizzo argued that every other city in the state with municipal or hybrid energy programs had both cleaner and greener energy. With ten weeks to go before the June election, Rizzo firmly stated that “no pressure is to be alleviated” to block PG&E and Prop 16.
Speaking after the conference, Rizzo highlighted the Domino Effect that this case might have on the rest of the US if Prop 16 succeeded, drawing similarities with Prop 17 and its focus on medical insurance industry measures. He said that Valero, a Texas energy company, was watching this case closely to see if it might benefit from a similar action against its own customer base. “There is a lot more at stake. This is a model for corporate interest,” he said.
Rizzo went on to suggest that PG&E would seek legal action if Prop 16 is successfully shot down. Having earmarked and already spent a large portion of $35 million (of ratepayers money, no less) on trying to force through Prop 16 by deception, PG&E would not take defeat lightly. PG&E has already threatened a lawsuit in Marin, and will doubtless pursue legal action to protect its interests and profits in San Francisco.
John Rizzo at the podium.
Supervisor Mirkarimi assured Fog City Journal that funding for such a suit is already built into the City’s budget, and would be a “welcome problem,” which would further tarnish PG&E’s public image. Mirkarimi urged supporters of CCA to visit the CleanPowerSF website, to reject the PG&E mailers, and to voice written concerns to the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors.