CHICO — Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) is not opposed to looking at different strategies when it comes to the future of PG&E.
“People are upset about PG&E. Should we look at breaking up PG&E? I’m not saying do it, but we should see what it looks like.”
In Chico Wednesday, Gallagher stopped by the Enterprise-Record while he’s on Assembly interim recess.
Conversations about the future of PG&E are ongoing at the state Capitol, with some voices calling for the break up of the utility, saying it has failed in keeping the public safe.
“It’s a complex issue,” Gallagher said, adding there is plenty of evidence of “mismanagement” on the part of the utility, which has been blamed for the wildfires of 2017 and 2018 including the deadly Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise and other ridge communities, killing 85 residents.
“You can say the infrastructure was not upgraded as it should have been.”
Gallagher did say he supported the idea of an investor-owned utility because it brings private and public money, and governance to the table.
“That’s a good thing.”
But Gallagher says there are other places to lay blame as well, including California’s government and the California Public Utilities Commission.
The latter, Gallagher said, “had not forced the issues over the years” of maintaining and upgrading infrastructure, calling it “government malfeasance.”
Also at fault, he said, are the regulators governing the forests, along with the environmental community, which successfully halted forest thinning.
Previously, PG&E’s responsibility was to provide power to the public in a safe manner, but “We ask more than safe power nowadays,” pointing to the requirement for a percentage of power to be from renewable sources.
“PG&E spent a lot of money to meet state renewable standards.”
Gallagher also criticized power regulators for not giving PG&E credit for its hydroelectric power production in those sources of green power.
“It’s because of the fish” in the waterways, “but it is certainly renewable.”
All of those elements serve to make PG&E’s rates the highest in the country, Gallagher said, meaning it’s the California ratepayer who is suffering.
One of the ideas that Gallagher believes is worth checking out is perhaps a Butte County centric power grid. Pointing to the array of power-production network in this area, Gallagher found the idea of a north state power source an idea for study. Among existing power production sources include electricity from rooftop and large array solar, along with hydro power from South Feather Water and Power, DeSabla/Centerville and Forks of Butte dams. There’s also a hydroelectric plant at Lime Saddle, but the canal that brings it water was destroyed by the Camp Fire.
And right on the doorstep, in Oroville, is the former Pacific Oroville Power Inc. congeneration plant that was shuttered in 2012.
Gallagher also thought the idea of biomass worth exploring, especially with the amount of fuel available in California that isn’t even burned.
“Dead and dying trees emit carbon and then there’s the charred trees on top of that.”
The wood would be used as fuel to produce power.
“That certainly fits in with climate goals,” Gallagher said, along with providing jobs and lower power costs.
Like his counterpart state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama), Gallagher senses a feeling in cooperation in the California Assembly since the Camp Fire, with other legislators’ sympathy and offerings of help or insight, including offerings from the Sonoma County representatives who dealt with the 2017 North Bay fires.
During a recent visit, Nielsen noted more across-the-aisle cooperation in the California Senate as a result of the Camp Fire and other wildfire disasters that have hit the state.