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APRIL 6, 2001
8:20 PM
CONTACT:  Sierra Club
Bill Magavern, (916) 557-1100 x 102
Joanie Clayburgh, (415) 977-5508, Pager (888) 330-0664
Sierra Club Calls on State to Acquire PG&E Hydro Power & Lands
Utilities Bankruptcy Offers Opportunity for Future
SACRAMENTO - April 6 - As PG&E begins the bankruptcy process, the Sierra Club is calling on Governor Gray Davis to acquire and operate the utility's hydroelectric power plants and the land that surrounds them. PG&E's hydropower plants are a crucial part of California's economic and environmental infrastructure. State ownership will lead to lower electricity rates while conserving important lands for hunting, hiking, recreation, wildlife habitat and native cultures.

"The bankruptcy filing presents both danger and opportunity," said Bill Magavern, senior lobbyist for the Sierra Club. "The danger is that vital power plants and valuable lands will be sold off to companies that will gouge consumers and degrade the environment. The opportunity is for the state of California to preserve both our cheapest source of power and wildlife and recreation areas for now and the future. We may never again have an opportunity like this in our lifetime."

PG&E owns the largest privately owned hydroelectric system in the United States. Bankruptcy reorganization raises the risk that the system could be auctioned off to the highest bidders -- as California's fossil-fuel plants were auctioned off to out-of-state generating companies that are now gouging consumers -- or shifted to the unregulated part of PG&E, which would like to charge much higher rates for the electricity. Environmental and consumer advocates have supported Assembly Member Fred Keeley's proposal for state acquisition of the hydro system.

"The best move for consumers and the environment is to purchase this power as soon as possible and provide cheap power while protecting our environment," continued Magavern. "Hydropower would be a valuable asset for the state and help solve our energy needs."

PG&E owns 140,000 acres of watershed lands which support old growth forests, provide critical habitat for threatened salmon and steelhead, and include wetlands, lake-front recreation, whitewater recreation rivers, and blue-ribbon trout streams. If the land around the hydropower plants were in private hands it could be developed or exploited through destructive logging and overgrazing. The California conservation community has called on Governor Davis to assure permanent protection of the utility's lands by purchasing them and developing a stewardship plan, with public input, to subsequently transfer parcels to the appropriate government agencies, Native American tribes, or land trusts.

"Buying the hydropower would ensure we have cheap power, prime wildlife areas, and the land would be available for future generations," concluded Magavern. "This would be a true legacy for our families and our future. It's the best lemonade you'll ever taste from one gigantic lemon."


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