California allows cities and counties to purchase electricity or develop it locally through an energy provider of their choice. Currently 68 percent of California’s electricity is generated by investor-owned utilities. Proposition 16, on the June 8 primary ballot, would alter local government’s ability to develop electricity service and is bad for California’s residents and businesses.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the largest for profit utility in California, has sponsored the initiative and underwritten the proposition’s $35 million campaign budget. The irony is that Proposition 16 only requires 50-percent plus one vote to amend our state constitution to force local voters to a two-thirds vote before a locality/municipality could issue bonds to develop electricity service.
While an investor-owned utility company is entitled to be in business and make a profit, it is also local government’s responsibility to secure reliable cost-effective sources of energy for residents and businesses.
Remember when California had a shortage of electricity in 2000-2001?
If you have forgotten this lesson, you should recall that our state suffered large scale black-outs. Suppliers, like Pacific Gas & Electric Company, were forced to buy market manipulated inflated priced electricity from companies like Enron, and ratepayers and California businesses dependent on energy consumption were squeezed by high energy costs.
Wall Street Journal data reports PG&E’s CEO was paid $10.6 million compensation in 2009. Municipal utilities do not pay CEOs millions in corporate bonuses and are not beholden to their stockholders. Our state constitution should not be amended to protect private utilities or thwart our energy choices.
If California was a nation, its economy would rank eighth in the world. Our local businesses need predictable energy costs to remain competitive. This is why California’s energy policies should provide for long term market stability and fixed energy costs.
California needs to lead the world in renewable energy. Our cities and counties must develop more predictable energy sources or determine whether to partner with private utility companies who have reliable energy sources. Our local governments must be able to invest in local renewable energy from solar, wind, biomass and other sources which would decrease our reliance on imported energy, reduce our carbon footprint and help maintain a stable economy. Vote “no” on Proposition 16 – a constitutional amendment which would hurt Californians.
Tracy Emblem is an attorney and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in California's 50th District. The candidate's opinion does not reflect the editorial position of SDGLN.