Editorial: Prop. 16 would tie hands of local government

Proposition 16 is a blatant attempt on the part of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to tie the hands of local governments interested in providing electrical service to their constituents — often as a green alternative to traditional power sources.

We strongly urge a “no” vote on this egregious effort to limit competition.

If Proposition 16 passes, local jurisdictions will be required to win the two-thirds approval of voters before they can start providing service or expand existing service. That’s a huge stumbling block that would greatly discourage most — if not all — public jurisdictions from even attempting to offer consumers a choice.

PG&E is bankrolling the campaign to pass the measure, to the tune of some $35 million. It’s doing so under the guise of “protecting” taxpayers, by guaranteeing them the right to vote.

Please. We might be more inclined to believe that PG&E wasn’t motivated purely by self-interest if it were to propose requiring a simple majority vote. Instead, it’s attempting to set the bar so high that it will scare off the competition.

This is an unnecessary mandate. State law already strictly regulates the circumstances under which a public agency can start providing power or expand existing electric service to new areas.

If PG&E succeeds in forcing a two-thirds vote, that will allow a small minority to derail the efforts of the majority. It also will hinder efforts to increase availability of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

We believe consumers benefit from competition in every area, and that includes provision of something as basic and necessary as electrical service. Vote no on Proposition 16.