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Calling for State Control of PG&E
by R. Robertson
Saturday Oct 26th, 2019 10:34 AM
On October 25, PG&E admitted its electrical equipment may have ignited the Kincade (Sonoma County) fire. This despite blackouts imposed across Northern California to prevent blazes. In the San Francisco Bay Area, East Bay Democratic Socialists for America say we need to replace private utilities. A new group on the horizon, Utility Justice Campaign, will also call for state control of PG&E.
unicorn_riot_burned_car.png
[Photo courtesy Unicorn Riot of 2018 Paradise, CA fire.]


Eric Ruud and Nick French of the East Bay chapter of Democratic Socialists of America wrote after the fires of 2018 that we need to take utilities out of the hands of corporate interests.

PG&E's marching orders are to maximize profits; it is beholden to its shareholders. The giant utility can rely on the state to bail it out if it gets into trouble. In his essay published on the East Bay DSA website, French said that, "Bringing all utilities under state control would make them democratically accountable, remove incentives for negligence, and allow badly needed revenues to be re-invested in public services." He prefaced this statement by saying that, "Companies like PG&E are reckless because they have no incentive not to be."

In Jacobin magazine Eric Ruud, also of East Bay DSA, wrote that PG&E must be brought under democratic control. He wrote: "Publicly owned, democratically managed utility companies have a reputation for being safer, cheaper, and greener than their privatized counterparts. Many have faster response times after extreme weather events, and disaster recovery is often cheaper due to proactive infrastructure improvements. Their boards are elected and their decisions are transparent."

Nick French concluded his 2018 essay by saying that abolishing private utilities would be a political victory in the struggle of working-class people. East Bay DSA and others are working towards a world that puts people over profits, a world where we would have a fighting chance at stopping the climate catastrophe.

Now that we have seen 2019's disastrous repeat of the horrors PG&E wrought in 2018, California’s forthcoming Utility Justice Campaign is gaining momentum. Nishi Sheorey, an organizer with the group, recently told Johanna Bozuwa writing for an October 15, 2019 article in The Nation, “We are fighting for an equitable, democratized, and decentralized energy model in California where the development, ownership, and control of energy and services are public and community-based, because we believe that ultimately that will result in a system that is more resilient and responsive to Californians.”

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