- 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."