Interest money

Save lives, save money, increase reliability and unplug PG&E

I send money to a convicted felon every month.

The recipient killed several times, although the courts declared it manslaughter.

This month, I sent $200 to the convicted felon.

I dislike the criminal in many ways, but thanks to the state of California, I have no choice but to keep sending money.

From what the criminal tells potential investors, in a few years they will reap money and record profits.

And it will be because you and I will be forced to pay more and more.

It’s because Sacramento allows the criminal to stay in business.

Now, if it was a drug dealer who didn’t kill anyone but broke the law, the state will most often seize his assets, sell them, and pocket the money.

But drug dealers are not controlled by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The CPUC was set up to protect you and me from this criminal and his colleagues.

With protectors like the CPUC who needs enemies?

It’s no mystery who we’re talking about. It’s PG&E.

Keep in mind that PG&E is a corporation. As such, he cannot go to jail for being found complicit in the deaths of 84 of his clients.

As an unincorporated drug dealer sells stuff that inadvertently kills someone, he gets a trip to places like the Sierra Conservation Center. It’s a place where inmates can be trained to fight wildfires as PG&E type equipment and years of neglected maintenance began.

Let this be a lesson for potential criminals. To integrate. Hire a CEO paid more money in a day than a typical residential PG&E customer makes in their lifetime or twice as much if a fire started by PG&E results in an earlier death than nature intended.

The people we elected in Sacramento to look after the best interests and the safety of Californians had a chance to eliminate PG&E.

Of course, we were told it wouldn’t work. The government cannot be trusted, we were told. Electricity rates would skyrocket; we have been told. PG&E has changed its corporate culture, we were told.

No less than three months after PG&E faced 84 counts of manslaughter in June 2020 for 2018’s Hell of Heaven and vowed on the courtroom steps never to do it again, they have it done again.

This time it was a 105-foot pine tree leaning over a PG&E line that a utility contractor had marked for removal two years earlier that started the Zogg fire in Shasta County.

At least the carnage was less. Only four people died, although one firefighter was paralyzed from the waist down after battling the blaze.

The Shasta County District Attorney wanted to pursue the second-degree murder charges. She went for manslaughter. That’s because the state of California offers no recourse to make companies that kill pay a commensurate price for the death they cause.

The maximum is a fine of $10,000 per count. For Paradise, that amounted to $840,000. Based on the PG&E CEO’s current salary and incentives, she can make $840,000 in 35 days.

It’s bad enough that people can run a society whose profits are insured by the state that can personally pocket millions and not be held responsible for the culture they either helped to create or allowed to exist.

It is much worse that nothing is done to end the bloodshed.

PG&E has a reputation for not being held liable by the state for damages it causes to its customers. The partial list includes Hinkley, San Bruno, Paradise, and Zogg Fire. This includes smaller oopsies such as the Christmas Eve death of a Rancho Cordova client in 2008 when his house blew up due to PG&E negligence.

Let’s be clear on one point. The rank and file men and women who keep the lights on have not created the culture where cutting corners has become the order of the day.

They did not benefit from a circumvention of basic responsibilities. That honor belongs to those who offer seven- or eight-figure salaries.

The State of California has allowed a business to thrive which poses a clear threat to public health and safety.

The argument that we can’t do better is lame and self-serving.

We can do better if we didn’t have fickle leaders with the attention spans of hummingbirds on steroids who also crave the sweet nectar of campaign contributions.

PG&E can and should be split.

The examples of agencies unattached to the Sacramento bureaucracy that are complicit in PG&E’s disasters because of the tact of not seeing the harm they’ve taken for years that gave PG&E the opportunity to reproduce itself in the company that made it possible for the infernos of San Bruno and Paradise to be found across the state.

They range from large as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power with 1.4 million customers to the Trinity Utility District with several thousand customers in California’s rugged Trinity Alps region of the North.

Keep in mind that the Trinity PUD is important to counter those who avoided unplugging PG&E.

The Trinity PUD serves a heavily forested area with a sparse population and seemingly endless wilderness that PG&E defenders say government entities could not service if PG&E were torn apart.

Trinity PUD has not been convicted or charged with manslaughter on its clients. It keeps power lines clear and replaces them when needed. It provides reliable electricity. And it does it with rates about 50% lower than PG&E.

It’s true that Trinity PUD’s electricity costs about half the price of what you and I pay.

So what’s the big difference? Trinity PUD is governed by a council that answers directly to its neighbors in Weaverville and surrounding communities.

Their economic interests are not lining their pockets with paychecks and compensation packages the size of Wall Street or those of hedge fund investors. Their economic concern is their community.

Trinity PUD has workers with the same skills as PG&E boots in the field, as does the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Lodi Electric, Modesto Irrigation District, Roseville Electric, and Turlock Irrigation District to name a few.

The big difference is the top ones.

Lower power tariffs. Increased public safety. More reliable electrical service.

It’s what SMUD’s customers and others have that PG&E’s taxpayers don’t.

Local control provides these things.

Your neighbors in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District understand that.

Too bad the powers that be in Sacramento don’t.

But again, they seem pretty comfortable with PG&E’s business model.

This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at [email protected]