Dirty energy initiative tries to hijack initiative process

When you vote no on Proposition G on November’s ballot, you will be accomplishing three things.

First, voting no on G will reject the latest PG&E-backed effort to block a clean energy alternative choice for San Francisco consumers. For decades, PG&E and their minions have spent millions of dollars on political and media campaigns to squash competition that would offer consumers cleaner choices for our electricity needs. This year, with the CleanPowerSF program finally slated to launch in San Francisco in early 2016, PG&E got desperate. In a backroom somewhere, they concocted a uniquely awful ballot measure designed to kneecap PG&E’s competition.

That’s Prop. G, which PG&E forces persuaded people to sign to place on the ballot by claiming it would give us “truth in energy.”

In reality, Prop. G would do precisely the opposite by allowing PG&E to deceptively claim its own nuclear power and dirty fossil fuels are “clean” and “green” while prohibiting the far greener CleanPowerSF program from doing the same. The truth is that Prop. G would do nothing but let PG&E maintain its monopoly on energy choices in San Francisco. Voting no on G will open up competition and allow consumers to make choices that save us money and protect our environment.

Second, by voting no on G, you will be punching back at the common slick political tactic of deceptively disguising an ugly ballot measure in a pretty package. When you see your ballot this fall, you will notice the drafters of Prop. G crafted it so it would be called “Disclosures Regarding Renewable Energy.” Sounds innocuous enough — who wouldn’t want to vote for more disclosures?

The reason that the Sierra Club and environmental and civic groups across the political spectrum are all opposing Prop. G is that its true impact would not improve disclosure but restrict consumers from choosing solar power and other cleaner energy. In the Public Utilities Commission’s official analysis of Prop. G, the PUC general manager highlights the real impact: “The proposed initiative hinders San Francisco’s development of roof-top solar for its residents. The proposed initiative prevents San Francisco’s [CleanPowerSF] program from claiming as ‘renewable and greenhouse gas free’ solar energy from roof-top solar facilities …”

A measure that blocks access to solar power — literally the cleanest energy under the sun — yet purports to be supporting clean energy is so deceptively packaged that it would even make tobacco company executives blush.

Third, voting no on Prop. G is exactly the right way to fight back against the corporate hijacking of the citizen ballot initiative process. For more than a century in California, we have had the right to petition our fellow citizens to solve problems that the politicians we elect fail to solve or are unable to address in the face of wealthy, special interest opposition. However, in recent decades, corporate interests — oil companies, the tobacco industry and, yes, PG&E — have all tried to use the ballot box to further their own agendas by flooding the airwaves with deceptive TV ads to trick voters into passing measures that actually harm our pocketbooks and our planet.

Some politicians who don’t like citizens being able to use the ballot box to hold them accountable predictably call for imposing severe restrictions on the initiative process every time there is an egregious corporate ballot initiative abuse. That has happened repeatedly both on the state level and locally here in San Francisco. Fortunately, concerned citizens have seen through this and beaten it back every time.

The right way to stop giant corporations like PG&E from hijacking an initiative process that was designed as a way for ordinary citizens to keep excessive corporate power in check is to call out their abuses, see through their deceptions and beat them at the ballot box. That’s exactly what we will do by voting no on Prop. G on Nov. 3.

Jon Golinger is an environmental attorney who lives in North Beach.

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