Last month, I introduced a resolution urging the state not to succumb to yet another corporate bailout, after the legislature approved a partial bailout plan last year that will likely force ratepayers to absorb at least some of the 2017 fire costs, to say nothing of the potential costs to 2018 fire victims. As the federal government continues to bail out corporations while shutting down the means of survival for millions of public sector workers, California must stand with its residents — and finally stand up to big utilities.
I also introduced a supplemental appropriation last month that would dedicate $50 million in surplus property tax to beginning the process of energy and infrastructure independence from PG&E here locally. Last June, the voters of San Francisco overwhelmingly passed my Proposition A: Clean, Safe, and Affordable Energy measure, which gave the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) the ability to finance the build-out of clean power facilities — just like they’ve been doing reliably with our aging water and sewer system for almost a hundred years. (In fact, they recently finished their massive $4.5 billion Water and Sewer Improvement Project on-time and on-budget — no small feat.)
This $50 million allocation would help build a San Francisco owned-and-operated substation in the southeast of the city, which would power public infrastructure like SFMTA, schools, and libraries, while offering reliable clean energy to new mixed affordable housing projects. It is the first step in fulfilling the will of the voters, but also in building out new affordable neighborhoods that would otherwise be held hostage by PG&E delays. As we recently learned in hearings at the Board of Supervisors, PG&E’s costly demands and refusal to work with the city are currently holding up more than 1,000 units of affordable housing, with more delays projected in the pipeline. Meanwhile, PG&E rates continue to go up while service declines. We must begin the process of constructing our own transmission and delivery infrastructure to protect safe, affordable, and reliable energy delivery to thousands of San Franciscans and public agencies.
Finally, I am working with the SFPUC to initiate a city acquisition of PG&E infrastructure, much of which will have to be assessed for safety and reliability. (Who remembers the PG&E substation fire in 2016 that revealed serious deficiencies in the corporation’s safety protocols and communication with the city?) The SFPUC not only has a more cost-effective clean power program, they have a solid safety track record and have taken preventative steps, from cutting back trees upcountry to creating redundancy systemwide.
The Trump administration and climate change deniers are the same people pushing for local rate payers to foot the bill for corporate greed and malfeasance. It’s time for San Francisco to lead the state and the nation in energy independence and put rate payers first.