PG&E vs. the people and the planet: John Avalos to the rescue

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Evening News, broadcast April 26, 2014

Eight months after the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission effectively halted the San Francisco City and County’s renewable power program, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos introduced legislation that would require the City and County to at least study the option of joining Marin Clean Energy, Marin County’s renewable power program. Supervisors London Breed, Scott Wiener, David Campos and Eric Mar are co-sponsoring the legislation.


KPFA Evening News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: Earlier this week San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos announced legislation that would require the city to at least study the option of joining Marin County’s renewable power program, Marin Clean Energy, which offers customers up to 100 percent renewable energy. Joining Marin’s program would give San Francisco residents an alternative to Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which produces only 19 percent of the power it sells with renewable sources. PG&E generates 27 percent of its power with natural gas, 21 percent with nuclear power, 11 percent with large hydro projects and 21 percent with unspecified technologies.

San-Francisco-District-11-Supervisor-John-Avalos, PG&E vs. the people and the planet: John Avalos to the rescue, Local News & Views
San Francisco District 11 Supervisor John Avalos

Efforts to create clean and/or public power in San Francisco have long been thwarted by PG&E’s financial support of politicians’ campaigns and most of all those of its winning candidates for mayor, including current Mayor Ed Lee. The mayor appoints all five of the San Francisco Public Utility Commissioners.

In 2003, while serving as acting mayor for a day, former Supervisor Chris Daly appointed two commissioners after consulting the City Attorney as to his legal right to do so.

When Mayor Brown returned from Tibet, he compared Daly to a stalker or suicide bomber, but the Board of Supervisors actually approved one of Daly’s two appointments. That was a rare exception to the rule, as Supervisor John Avalos explained to KPFA’s Ann Garrison.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: John Avalos, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Francisco’s utility monopoly, holds onto the San Francisco market by holding onto the mayor’s office and the Public Utilities Commission. So what do you think this ordinance is going to change when the Public Utilities Commission still has to approve it?

Supervisor John Avalos: I’m not clear if anything is going to change, but we haven’t stopped trying to make a clean power program for San Francisco residents work. We owe it to the planet to do that, and this is a step we’re taking.

Under the mayor, the commissioners have opposed efforts to implement CleanPowerSF, but I don’t think they can continue do that forever, especially when the City’s policy is to go to 100 percent renewable by 2030.

KPFA: Well, how serious is it if there’s no penalty for not acting on the City’s policy?

Avalos: Well, that stuff happens all the time. I think what’s important is that you expose it. Let people know that there’s obfuscation going on. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

By having various options for clean power and alternative energy, eventually the Lee administration and its efforts to oppose clean power and alternatives to PG&E will be exposed. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do, and it’s been very, very hard to get the establishment media organizations, especially the Chronicle, to take this issue on.

By having various options for clean power and alternative energy, eventually the Lee administration and its efforts to oppose clean power and alternatives to PG&E will be exposed.

The mayor came and read a pack of lies at the Board of Supervisors meeting back about five months ago. Pack of lies. And it was not exposed by the media, and we’re taking our time to make sure that the lies about why the PUC and the Lee administration opposed CleanPowerSF get out there and get exposed.

KPFA: You said that San Francisco is no longer a leader in clean power. Do you think that’s because the electorate has changed?

Avalos: No. San Franciscans believe that climate change is real and we want to do something about it.

KPFA: Doesn’t the mayor appoint most of the members of the Public Utilities Commission?

Avalos: The mayor appoints all the members of the Public Utilities Commission. They have to come before the board to get approved, but there’s actually a changeover that’s happening for Public Utilities commissioners this year, for some of them.

One of them, I believe Art Torres, who was one of the main opponents of clean power, he’s up before the board this summer or early fall and I don’t intend to be supporting Art Torres unless he has a change of heart, but I wouldn’t trust that he would.

KPFA: So I’ll trust that PG&E did not support your mayoral campaign?

Avalos: No. Basically, mayors – and a lot of candidates for office in city government – go the PG&E route. When Carmen Chu, who was appointed supervisor, was running for her seat, there was a public power measure on the ballot.

She got all kinds of money from PG&E to do commercials against the ballot measure while she was running for her seat. So there are a lot of people who choose the PG&E route to get into public office, and, generally speaking, the mayor’s office is the place where PG&E puts the most weight in elections.

KPFA: Supervisor John Avalos, thank you for speaking to KPFA.

Avalos: My pleasure. Thank you.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, CounterpunchGlobal Research, Colored Opinions, Black Star News and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at This story first appeared on her website. If you want to see Ann Garrison’s independent reporting continue, please contribute on her website at