Representatives support customer, but not yet Nevada Irrigation District, ownership
Over the past few days — like the last year — PG&E has been at the center of heated concern.
After extensive charges of criminal negligence against the company, and the recent power shutoffs, local and state representatives have been discussing options for reforming, circumscribing, or outright adopting the utility company and its power grid.
On Nov. 4, mayors and supervisors from a spate of northern and central California cities wrote to the California Public Utilities Commission in hopes of making PG&E customer owned.
At Tuesday’s Grass Valley City Council meeting — the last one of the year — the City Council approved adding Mayor Lisa Swarthout’s name to that list.
“Something has to change with PG&E,” said Swarthout at the meeting.
Grass Valley City Manager Tim Kiser said the city must ensure PG&E doesn’t prioritize profits above all else, including infrastructure, cost and customer safety.
VOTING TO DELAY
A day after the Grass Valley Council’s vote, the Nevada Irrigation District’s Board of Directors opted against moving forward with an attempt to take over PG&E’s assets.
The item the board turned down Wednesday in a 3-to-2 vote denied giving the Local Agency Formation Commission of Nevada County (LAFCo) approval to investigate expanding the district’s sphere of influence, and to provide more services. Though most board members were in favor of the utility becoming customer owned, the vote was meant to delay the possible approval. Voting in favor of the agenda item would have been part of a possible future transition of the district adopting PG&E’s assets.
Nevada Irrigation District Assistant General Manager Greg Jones gave a presentation, explaining what it would mean if the district took over PG&E’s power lines and services.
Jones explained that 87,000 customers would receive service, most of whom reside in Placer County.
The change would lead to a 5% reduction in billing for customers, and the installation of “smart nodes” that allow for more targeted power shutoffs in the event that shutoffs are necessary.
The district would leverage a $550 million revenue bond to help pay for the new services. Acquiring the services would bring in $170 million locally. The risks of acquisition include rising costs, staffing issues and dealing with local unions, Jones said.
Board Chairman Scott Miller, among other board directors, also was concerned about the district falling into bankruptcy should a catastrophe, like a wildfire, occur under its watch.
“We don’t have a billion dollars to pay,” said Miller, adding that he’d prefer to wait for how the state deals with the utility company before paying LAFCo $150,000 or more to understand the nuances of the district buying the lines and services.
Directors Nick Wilcox and Chris Bierwagen were the only individuals to vote in favor of the agenda item.
“I’m not sold on the long-term benefits of this, but we need data,” said Wilcox.
Generally, the public supported the board members’ decision.
“I don’t believe NID can afford the exploration of the application process,” said Michael Hill-Weld.
Attendee Peter Van Zant agreed.
“Spending money, up front, to achieve something that we don’t know is achievable” may not be wise, he said.
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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