Have you ever had to go up against the big guy to save the environment? We are a very small coastal community trying to save 11 beautiful, healthy palm trees from being cut down by our power company, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). The palms have now grown up into the wires. Trimming them will kill them. The power company does not want to spend the money, of course, to move the poles, bury the wires, or implement a myriad of other solutions we have suggested. PG&E claims it will take almost $50,000 to save three trees, by moving two poles, but they are unwilling to subsidize it.
--Jody in Pacifica, California
Well, you’ve not only got a classic David vs. Goliath situation, but a classic case of “act locally, think globally.” This company’s attitude toward your trees is a symptom of a colossal power grab it’s attempting—in both the political and the electrical realms, as you’ll see in a moment.
But first, I assume that you guys have already looked into the legality of cutting the trees, and that you have no recourse. If that’s the case, you obviously need to keep rallying your treehuggers to get as much publicity and media attention as possible. It might help to call attention to the scandalous fact that PG&E officials have stated that they are willing to spend up to $35 million to put a proposition—Prop 16—on a state ballot to stop any city or county in California from forming its own power company unless there’s approval from two-thirds of the local residents. You could hold your public hats out and ask if they might spare a few dollars from this prodigious political war chest, or from the $1.22 billion they reaped in profits last year , to rescue your trees.
This company has obviously learned what a magnificent tool supermajorities can be in preventing anything from getting done, what with California already in gridlock because it’s stuck with a two-thirds majority requirement merely to pass a state budget. Though Prop 16 would prevent communities from developing their own alternative power sources in their own way, its Orwellian name, “The Taxpayers Right to Vote Act,” sounds more like civil-rights legislation than a cynical coup by corporate plutocrats. The saddest thing about all this conniving is that this company has actually made laudable efforts in energy conservation, including supporting the emissions regulations called for in California’s tough new law, AB32.
I wouldn’t be quite so quite so lathered up about this if it weren’t for the fact that, like it or not, California sets trends for the rest of the country, some great (like AB32) and some dastardly. If this latest development wins in the Golden State, a bunch of others might follow suit, and wind up as vulnerable to corporate ambush as your trees are to PG&E’s chainsaws.