IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell issued the following statement in response to San Francisco’s offer to buy the electric grid in the City from PG&E:
“IBEW 1245 opposes the proposed takeover of PG&E electric system by the City and County of San Francisco because it hurts both the residents of San Francisco, as well as all our members — particularly those working in the City.
“We have historically and consistently opposed any and all utility takeover proposals. This includes public takeover of private utilities (such as SMUD’s attempt to take over the utility in Yolo, as well as San Francisco’s repeated attempts to take over the utility in San Francisco) as well as private takeover of public utilities (such as PG&E’s proposals for SMUD and Lodi Electric).
“We oppose such takeovers because they would hurt our members in a number of ways. Most notably, moving between public and private would be damaging for our members’ retirement plans, including their pensions, medical and other retirement benefits. If a takeover occurs, workers would be forced to leave their existing pension plan before they have attained the years needed for full retirement benefits, and they are again hurt in their new pension plan, because they must start at zero and mostly likely won’t be able attain the years needed to earn full benefits there either.
“Additionally, a takeover would significantly impact the quality of life for our members who value the flexibility of the current system. If members in San Francisco find the City’s skyrocketing cost of living too onerous, or if they simply tire of the grind in the City, they have the ability to transfer to another location within PG&E’s service area. That ability will cease to exist if San Francisco takes over, and there’s no doubt that some of our members currently employed by PG&E in San Francisco would not go to work for the City for precisely this reason.
“This takeover proposal would also harm the residents of San Francisco, who have voted three times in the last 18 years to OPPOSE a takeover of PG&E. Every day, San Franciscans are being priced out of their homes, must pick their way through many thousands of homeless people camped on sidewalks and in parks all over town, and dodge hundreds of thousands of potholes on City streets. Why are San Francisco politicians proposing to spend at least $6 billion* to buy out PG&E when San Franciscans desperately want their politicians to spend those billions of dollars on much higher priorities, like affordable housing, mental health and other restorative services for the homeless, street repairs, and timely MUNI service?
“In addition, the PG&E electric infrastructure that serves the City is, just like the City itself, unique and idiosyncratic. The network that serves the Financial District, Civic Center and the new development south of Market Street including Mission Bay, is the second most complex and dense electric system in the country. PG&E built this system, operates it every day, and is now installing over $1 billion in new equipment and technology by 2023 to ensure reliable and safe operations. The San Francisco Public Utility Commission (SFPUC), which is the City agency that’s pushing the takeover, has difficulty serving its municipal load as it currently stands, and has neither the managerial know-how nor adequate staffing to assume this formidable task.
“The effect that such a takeover would have on disaster preparedness should not be overlooked. Under the current PG&E system, if something happens or goes wrong in San Francisco, there are thousands of PG&E workers ready to help, as occurred after the Loma Prieta earthquake. This support vanishes if SFPUC is in charge. And it’s important to note that the SFPUC is subject to the same fire liability law that has put PG&E into bankruptcy. All it would take is one fire, and rates would increase substantially.
“The bottom line is the proposed takeover of PG&E by the City and County of San Francisco would hurt almost everyone and would improve nothing. IBEW 1245 urges the Mayor and City Attorney to withdraw their proposal.”
* This figure is a low estimate of the fair market value of PG&E’s grid and facilities in the City and County of San Francisco, based on the accounting methodology used by California courts in eminent domain trials and the estimated value in the 2008 election Measure H. That figure does not include the cost of maintaining and operating this system all day, every day.