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Dear Gov. Newsom: 10 Principles for California’s Energy Transition

As the smoke from the 2019 wildfires started to clear, the Reclaim Our Power Utility Justice campaign wrote a letter to Governor Newsom. We put forward 10 principles to guide California’s transition to a safe, resilient energy future that benefits all Californians, not just the wealthy few.

10 Principles for California's Energy Transition

1. Distributed Power. Instead of massive power plants and long transmission lines that cut through wildfire-prone areas, California must build a web of new, more resilient energy systems that generate, store and distribute clean renewable power locally and regionally.

2. Worker and Community Control. The only way to create an energy system that works for us, is if it is determined by us. Workers and communities must own and make meaningful decisions about our energy systems, not corporations like PG&E that put profits over safety.

3. Clean Renewable Energy for All. All people deserve to breathe clean air and have healthy environments to live, learn, play, and work. Any restructuring plan must include a managed decline of dangerous gas power plants, and protect low-income Californians from gas rate increases in the process. Instead of burning dirty fossil fuels that poison our air and bodies, we must power our neighborhoods with clean renewable energy.

4. Corporate Accountability. Californians shouldn’t have to pay for PG&E’s disasters, whether it’s through rate increases on customer electric bills or taxpayer-funded cost recovery. Investor-owned utilities need to be accountable for the consequences of their reckless decisions and pay for the damages they caused.

5. Frontline Leadership. Ensure that all utilities, load-serving entities, and utility regulatory bodies include environmental justice leadership in their governance and decision-making bodies. California needs more community control at every level of our energy system with clear protections for people who are most impacted.

6. Indigenous Sovereignty and Land Stewardship. We must respect indigenous sovereignty and follow the lead of local indigenous communities in managing fire and land stewardship.

7. Environmental Justice. Stop putting dirty fossil fuel facilities and operations in low-income communities of color. Start building the 21st-century energy system in frontline communities that have been unfairly burdened by this dirty energy system.

8. Equitable Emergency Planning. Emergency planning must be culturally competent and community-driven in order to be effective. Californians who are under insured, undocumented, linguistically isolated, medically vulnerable, experiencing homelessness,or otherwise hard to reach must be protected from wildfires and power shutoffs.

9. Protect Workers. During PG&E’s wildfires and power shutoffs, the company must compensate workers for lost pay, especially immigrant workers in the agricultural,construction, domestic, and hospitality sectors who are too often forced to choose between working in hazardous conditions or losing employment during disasters, and are excluded from federal unemployment and disaster relief benefits. As we make the energy transition, we must build the new system through good union jobs with family-supporting wages for diverse local communities.

10. Invest in Climate Resilience. PG&E should fund turning our public spaces and community centers into climate resilience hubs with the clean renewable backup power that our communities need to survive their power shutoffs. Instead of extracting wealth from working class and low income communities, energy providers should reinvest their revenues into energy efficiency, local clean energy generation, storage, shared solar cooperatives and microgrids that make our communities more resilient.

Check out the full letter here.

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Webinar: Wildfires, Shutoffs, and a Just Transition

On Tuesday, Nov 5th, Movement Generation hosted a live webinar to discuss the wildfires and PG&E shutoffs in California, and to hear from current organizing happening in the Bay Area to build real, on-the-ground solutions.

As Californians go through the shock of this year’s wildfire crisis, we are once again hustling to respond and recover while making sense of this ‘new normal’. We are experiencing the consequences of deep ecological and economic devastation created by the racist, capitalist extractive economy.

We are also witnessing those on the frontlines answering it with radical resistance and resilience – building solutions and people power towards a Just Transition.

Speakers included:

Tré Vasquez from North Bay Organizing Project / Sanación del Pueblo
Stacey Park from Disability Justice Culture Club
Mari Rose Taruc from the Reclaim Our Power Utility Justice Campaign

Hosted and moderated by Ellen Choy of Movement Generation

Download the slides here.

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Newsweek: The Billionaires Won’t Save Us.

It’s Time to Transform How We Power Our Communities.

When Governor Newsom began courting billionaires like Warren Buffet to save PG&E, we wrote back in Newsweek:

“The billionaires won’t save us. It’s time to completely transform how we power our communities.”

Excerpts:

“The old electrical system—shaped through backroom deals between billionaire investors and politicians—relies on nearly 200 dirty gas power plants to generate massive amounts of electricity and carry it across dangerously long distances. This system produces profits for a few at the expense of many: working-class communities of color who are getting sick from living near dirty gas power plants, the medically vulnerable who rely on powered medical devices, and all of the people whose lives and livelihoods are disrupted by prolonged power outages and wildfires yet still have to pay rising rates.

This system cannot be salvaged.”

“Instead of pouring billions into propping up a dangerous, antiquated electrical infrastructure, Governor Newsom, our legislators and the California Public Utilities Commission must move California toward a safe, reliable, community-owned energy infrastructure that reinvests in local communities.

The contours of what a 21st-century energy system should look like are clear—we need a web of decentralized, distributed energy systems that generate, store and distribute clean renewable power locally and regionally. Workers and communities need to own and make meaningful decisions about our energy systems, not big corporations like PG&E. And we need to start building the 21st-century grid in working-class communities of color that have been unfairly burdened by this dirty energy system.”

Read the full op-ed here.

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The PG&E Bailout (And What It Means for You)

Our Money is Fueling PG&E’s Fires and Profits!

In the past 5 years alone, PG&E has caused over 1,500 wildfires, including 5 of the state’s 10 most destructive. These fires killed over a hundred people, destroyed thousands of buildings, burned hundreds of thousands of acres, and amassed over $30 billion in damages.

The fires are the result of years of PG&E neglecting maintenance of its crumbling transmission infrastructure in Northern and Central California in order to pay out billions of dollars to wealthy investors through executive bonuses and shareholder dividends.

The consequences? The state has stepped in to bail out and shore up this private utility by forcing us to bear the risks and pay the costs. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which is supposed to regulate the utilities for the public good, is instead helping PG&E pay for its wildfire costs by imposing rate hikes on its customers (you and me) and exposing us to increased risks.

Last July, Governor Newsom rammed a massive utility bailout bill (AB 1054) through the California Legislature. The “Newsom Bailout” reshapes state law to permanently pass future wildfire liability costs on to ratepayers, transfers the burden of proof regarding utility negligence from the utilities to the people, and suspends public transparency and accountability processes for wildfire bailout decisions.

As a result, our monthly bills are going up along with the risks of wildfires and massive power shutoffs. Unless we oppose this PG&E bailout madness.

Want to learn more about what the PG&E bailouts mean for you? Check out the full factsheet here.

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Gov Newsom: We Need #PowerToLive

On December 16, we joined the #PowerToLive coalition and allies to shutdown PG&E’s headquarters in San Francisco.

Many of the protesters have mobility issues and said they were disproportionately affected by the planned power blackouts in peak fire season.

“I can’t just take a go bag and go find a safe place to be,” said activist Max Airborne. “It’s not that easy.”

“PG&E has billed the recent power outages as an inconvenience. That’s not OK,” said Jesica Lehman with the Power to Live Coalition. “This is not an inconvenience when your health and your life are at risk when the power goes off.”

Check out more coverage of the protest here.