The mayor of San Jose is leading the charge to break PG&E up into a cooperative owned by its customers, with Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf pushing the plan too.
You may have missed the October news that San Francisco tried to buy all of PG&E’s local power lines and run the electric part of the utility here themselves. And the reason you may have missed it is because your power might have been shut off at the time. Despite being completely bankrupt, PG&E declined that $2.5 billion offer, which seems like a pretty handsome sum for the power lines of one mere city and county. But a much bigger, statewide offer could be on the table, as the Bay Area News Group reports that San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo is heading an effort to turn PG&E into a customer-owned cooperative. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf is in on the deal too, though SF Mayor London Breed is not.
“I’m proud to stand with our growing coalition of 113 elected leaders — who together represent more than half of Californians served by PG&E — urging the company’s transformation to put the company’s days of underinvestment, mismanagement, and negligence far behind us,” Liccardo said in a statement.
This plan is totally separate from Mayor Breed’s October offer for the San Francisco lines, but is getting more momentum since Liccardo proposed the idea a month ago. There’s pretty much total consensus that October’s PG&E blackouts were badly executed and far too widespread, and do get ready for another round of scandal to further erode the company’s value and public trust. The Chronicle just reported on some new photographic evidence bolstering the case that PG&E equipment caused the Camp Fire, the deadliest in California history.
For their part, PG&E said in a statement that their “facilities are not for sale, and changing the structure of the company would not create a safer operation.”
This consumer takeover plan is little more than just announcements — there is no paperwork, no proposed Board of Directors, and most importantly, no dollar amounts mentioned.
It's also entirely separate from the current (and mostly behind-the-scenes) shareholders vs. bondholders hedge fund fight for control of the bankrupt utility. Federal bankruptcy judges will consider that outcome, and they are free to ignore elected officials’ proposals. On the other hand, the California Public Utilities Commission has final sign-off on the bankruptcy exit plan, and they might be more amenable to the plans of bureaucrats and elected officials.
These elected officials may just be grandstanding on a hopeless cause with full knowledge that one of the competing hedge fund factions will ultimately win control of PG&E. But there is no better winning issue for a California politician right now than to shit on PG&E, so do expect a public takeover to remain part of the conversation.
Image: ::Tanty:: via Flickr