Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward mayors back movement for customer-owned PG&E

A group of 22 California mayors and five county supervisors representing more than 5 million residents want PG&E to become a public co-op.

A letter from the growing number of civic leaders was sent Monday to the California Public Utilities Commission urging them to consider the idea of a customer-owned public utility. They argue the arrangement will give the public more say in how the utility, currently in bankruptcy, and the object of great derision for its handling of the California wildfires and its aftermath, is operated.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has led the growing movement to buy out PG&E and transform it into a mutual benefit corporation, ostensibly a public cooperative.

The letter was also signed by four East Bay mayors, including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday, and Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors referenced the letter during a meeting on Oct. 29. But since some county officials did not appear fully aware of the letter, the county supervisors moved the discussion to a future meeting.

Following a spate of major wildfires started by PG&E’s aging infrastructure and public anger over its decision to shut-off power to millions in Northern California in order to stave off more fires, the group believes PG&E must be “re-imagined.” It’s a phrase and sentiment used previously by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“A cooperative financial structure will save ratepayers many billions of dollars in financing costs over this next decade,” according to the letter. “A customer-owned PG&E will better focus its scarce dollars on long-neglected maintenance, repairs and capital upgrade, and mitigating some part of the substantial upward pressure on rates.”

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