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Initiative for public statewide electricity utility OK'd for signature-gathering

Posted: February 4, 2013 7:42 p.m.
Updated: February 4, 2013 7:42 p.m.

If Ben Davis Jr. has his way, California voters will get to decide if they want to do away with for-profit electric companies and elect representatives to set rates and oversee a public utility.

That’s the goal of Davis’ proposed Utility District Initiative, which was qualified for circulation Monday by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

If it should gather enough signatures to make the ballot, it would ask voters to approve a publicly owned California Electrical Utility District to provide electric service, replacing most investor-owned utilities, including Southern California Edison.

“This would make ... the entire state a publicly owned utility,” Davis said in a phone interview Monday. Exempt would be current public electric utilities — unless they wanted to join up.

Under his proposal, an elected board of directors “would have much of the authority held by the (California Public Utilities Commission) to set rates and would have authority to use eminent domain to acquire property,” Davis said.

The new utility could buy an existing electric utility “and operate it all themselves,” he said.

A Santa Cruz resident credited with first proposing the closure of Rancho Seco nuclear power plant near Sacramento, which generated its last kilowatt some 22 years ago, Davis said he’s also planning a separate ballot measure that would shut down San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Diego County and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County.

He says electric utility measure could lower rates 10 percent to 20 percent for ratepayers, in part by eliminating profits of shareholders.

“I can’t think of anything that would have a more positive effect in attracting businesses to California,” he said. “Lowering our electricity (rates) has a tremendous potential to benefit California.”

In a news release from the Secretary of State’s office, state agencies were less definite about the impact.

“It is the opinion of the Legislative Analyst and director of finance that the measure would result in a substantial net change in state and local finances,” the release said.

A spokeswoman from Edison said the utility doesn’t typically comment on proposed initiatives until they make the ballot, noting many do not do so.

More than 500,000 signatures would be required for Davis’ initiative to make the ballot. The next election is in 2014.




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