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Pull the Plug

PG&E must be seized

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Since being incorporated in 1905, Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation has booked $1 billion a year in profits (adjusted for inflation). That adds up to $114 billion distributed as cash to shareholders instead of being applied to maintenance and upgrading the safety of the utility's broken infrastructure—with deadly consequences.

Hundreds of people have lost their lives in fires and gas explosions caused by the utility's deliberate negligence in prioritizing profit before performance decade after decade. Generations of politicians, including Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, looked the other way while pocketing PG&E's massive campaign contributions. State officials allowed legions of PG&E lobbyists—including Platinum Advisors, owned by Press Democrat publisher Darius Anderson—to write and push past legislation protecting the powerful utility from meaningful regulation.

Most recently, PG&E benefited from legislation making it more difficult to seize the corporation's physical assets under eminent domain laws. But the seizure of PG&E is precisely what can and must be done—and with haste, before the Golden State is transformed into a darkened, smoking cinder. Given that the utility's shareholders already appropriated more than $100 billion in maintenance money in the form of excessive dividends, it makes zero sense to pay them a penny more in compensation for a criminally neglected asset that requires at least $100 billion in immediate public works attention.

Economists call energy utilities "natural monopolies," meaning it's more efficient for them to be owned and operated by localized, publicly owned utilities in the interest of the people than by Wall Street profiteers. A public utility commission staffed by responsible experts would do a better job of pooling and managing statewide infrastructure, maintenance and upgrades projects than the political hacks currently running the PG&E-captured agency.

WARNING: PG&E bondholders are trying to grab the utility's assets, when they should just eat their losses and go home. You can't win 'em all. And Gavin Newsom is asking Warren Buffett to buy PG&E! That is a truly bad idea; Buffett siphons the veins of his acquisitions for shareholder profits. Hey, Wall Street, guess what? PG&E is not for sale.

We, the people of California, already bought it with our money and our blood.

We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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