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Before Greg Palast became the journalist who exposes election fraud, he was an expert on public utilities, and was instrumental in LILCO’s conversion to public ownership. Today, he argues for public ownership of bankrupt PG&E.Palast is the author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and created the companion film of the same name. In this podcast, we learn more about Palast’s knowledge and experience with public utilities, and utility regulators that range from ineffective to corrupt.
Palast worked for the California Public Utilities Commission in the 1970’s, and he recounts the sordid slide of the PUC from strong regulation to becoming captive to the industry it’s supposed to regulate. He separates the “old” Jerry Brown during his first stint as governor to Brown 2.0, who left a former utility CEO, Michael Peavey, in place as PUC president until then-AG Kamala Harris was preparing indictments of Peavey for backroom dealings.
On December 9, PG&E announced a tentative agreement to exit bankruptcy, which will shift some of the utility’s liabilities to ratepayers and taxpayers. PG&E shares rebounded to about $10, which makes a hostile takeover by the state more costly, but not impossible. Palast also notes that PG&E bondholders, led by “The Vulture” Paul Singer, should not be rewarded for their predatory investments.
Palast shares his experience in Ohio and New York State, where governors Celeste and Cuomo (respectively) rescued floundering utilities by shifting to public ownership. The New York utility was called LILCO, Long Island Lighting Company, and Palast explains that Mario Cuomo was at first opposed to the hostile takeover. He notes that more than 45 million American households get their power from public entities, and it’s the right moment for California to follow suit.