...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Thursday, October 16, 2003
      ( 11:46 AM )
Oregon Fights for Power

...Electrical Power, that is. I've posted on this subject previously, but it's becoming a hotter issue as election day gets closer.

If you're interested, there is a fantastic debate about it on Portland Indymedia . As I've noted before, I am much more inclined towards a publicly owned utility district here for the various reasons that a) I'm basically a socialist, b) Enron has screwed us royally and they're only about to do it again because of the bankruptcy, c) Portlanders will be MUCH better off in terms of rates (PUDs are proven to have lower rates, even here in Oregon), responsivenes, control over their own utility company and in the not-getting-a-corporate-screwing department, and finally, d) I'd just ONCE like the people to win over the corporations!!

Now, all that being said, it's going to be a hard battle. The disinformation swirling around out there about how we're all going to go down in flames if we own our own utility is thick, massive and everywhere. PGE and Pacific Power are spending millions in tv ads (I can't get through an entire episode of Angel without at least two ads per segment from a power company!), print ads, billboards and letters to the editor of the newspaper that are either from PGE executives, or sound like they are from PGE executives. (PGE is going under the astroturf name "Citizens Against the Government Takeover") - funny, huh? The Oregonian's own editorial board (read: "we want to be just like the WSJ Editorial Board!") is against the PUD.

The two biggest arguments from the corporate powers are that: 1) YOUR TAXES WILL GO UP!!! if we own our utility and 2) YOU'LL HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANOTHER CORRUPT LAYER OF GOVERNMENT!!!

Let's review: PGE does not exist anymore - it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Enron. Enron is in bankruptcy and wants to sell off bits and pieces of PGE to the highest (non-regulated) bidder as soon as possible, which will be nice for Enron, but will soak the local customers. Pacific Power is owned by, I think, a Scottish company, so really, they are invested in our local quality of life for sure. The whole argument about taxes going up is about property taxes. PGE screams at us that with a PUD, our property taxes may rise up to "30 percent!" This is a total misrepresentation (a lie). The levy that will be needed to support the PUD will amount to 30 cents on a $100,000 home, 45 cents on a $150,000 home. OUCH! Boy, that's a price to pay for not being under the thumb of Enron or an Enron clone!

Next, that "layer of government" problem. Hmmm. Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver and Eugene all have public utility companies and they all have run well for many years and at a substantially lower rate for their customers than the Enron-owned variety. The PUD is not going to suddenly emerge as some monster beaurocracy that doesn't know what its doing. Obviously, the current employees of PGE and Pacific Power are who will be hired by the PUD and the PUD will take every effort to make it a smooth transition. The entire point of a PUD is that we have a say in it, it is accountable to us through our government. We are not left voiceless and hanging on an electrical wire by a corporation that isn't invested at all in us.

Let's look at some numbers:

$5 million: amount of ratepayer money PGE used to defeat 1992 ballot measure that would have closed the Trojan Nuclear plant at no cost to ratepayers.

1: number of weeks after the measure's defeat that PGE closed Trojan permanently at ratepayer expense.

$569 million: amount PGE has collected from ratepayers for federal and state income tax payments since 1997.

$0.2 million: amount of these collections Enron/PGE has actually paid in income taxes (it kept the other $568.8 million for itself).

$100 million: amount PGE employees lost due to Enron's stock fraud.

$80 million: amount Oregon PERS lost due to Enron's stock fraud.

5: number of pages in Enron reorganization plan needed to list all lawsuits against PGE, most for fraud.

Undetermined: amount these suits may cost PGE ratepayers.

30: number of "restructuring specialists" Enron has hired to help it sell PGE for the best return.

$860,000: amount each "specialist" is paid per year in salary alone.

$300 million: yearly increased cost to ratepayers if sale to an unregulated buyer happens.

0: number of reasons Enron's creditors, the Wall Street banks, have not to dismember PGE in the bankruptcy proceeding.

As someone once said, can you hear me now? Portlanders have a very important decision in their hands this election. PLEASE vote and please consider that voting for a PUD will be better for you and your family in the long run than sticking with the catastrophe of a power system that we now have. We have got to start taking back power out of the hands of greedy corporations that want nothing to do with regulating their outfits to benefit our safety, our pocketbooks or our quality of life. "Free Enterprise" is not at stake here, those of you who worship the Invisible Hand. This is about citizen ownership. You not only have the right to own your own power company, you have a responsibility to do so because otherwise you are ceding your position as a citizen of this city and state and you are not preserving the benefits that are possible for the next generation. That's really what it's all about.

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