Brown-out on PG&E

Brown-out on PG&E

By Amanda Witherell

California State Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office is investigating Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s meddling with Community Choice Aggregation, according to several sources who spoke with the Guardian. “I was contacted by their office,” said John Rizzo, who works with the Bay chapter of the Sierra Club. Rizzo was told by a deputy attorney general that the PG&E investigation was ongoing. “We had some materials we sent to them and they had material they showed us.”

The attorney general’s office did not comment on the investigation. But based on the materials Rizzo said he shared with the deputy attorney general, PG&E’s lobbying efforts against proposed CCAs may the subject of the inquiry. Assembly Bill 117, the 2001 CCA law that lets municipalities purchase wholesale electricity directly for citizens and route it through privately-owned utility lines, states that “all electrical corporations shall cooperate fully with any community choice aggregators that investigate, pursue, or implement” CCA programs.

Rizzo said he gave the deputy attorney general an April 30, 2007 letter from PG&E to ratepayers denouncing San Francisco’s CCA plan. Rizzo also gave investigators filings from the Oakland Ethics Commission showing that a lobbyist for the corporation, Wil Hardee, met twice with City Council Member Ignacio de la Fuente to “discuss pitfalls and risks” of CCA.

Similar 2007 filings exist at San Francisco’s Ethics Commission. Between April and June of 2007, as city officials were finalizing their CCA proposal, PG&E lobbyists met with a variety of supervisors, employees, and public utilities commissioners, to argue against the initiative. And when officials of the San Joaquin Valley Power Authority — an aggregation of 12 cities and counties — were looking into passing their own CCA plan last year, PG&E lobbied so aggressively against the idea that the authority filed a formal complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission. (See Their Neighborhood; 8/15/07) No final decision about the complaint has been made by the CPUC.

Originally published April 2, 2008 in the San Francisco Bay Guardian