Staff and wire report

San Francisco and a group of government-owned utilities is asking a judge to remove a proposition from the June ballot that would make it harder for local governments to enter the electricity business.

In a suit filed Thursday, a coalition that includes San Francisco, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, several small public-power generators and the California Municipal Utilities Association is seeking to have Proposition 16 taken off the ballot.

They claim the Pacific Gas and Electric Co.-sponsored measure is misleading and misrepresents the impact of the initiative.

"I think it's a great idea," Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan said. "This ballot measure is completely bogus. To allow one company to abuse the state constitution to protect its monopoly interests is outrageous."

PG&E spokeswoman Robin Swanson said it is ironic that public utilities accuse the company of backdoor tactics when it is PG&E that is airing the issue so voters can make an informed decision.

"These entities and the politicians would rather go to the courts than go to the people," Swanson said. "Besides," she added, "their claims are baseless, and they have missed all the constitutional deadlines to get it off the ballot."

So far, neither Marin County nor any Marin cities are participating in the suit.


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The Marin Energy Authority, a group consisting of the county of Marin, San Rafael, Mill Valley, Sausalito, Tiburon, San Anselmo, Fairfax and Belvedere, is competing with PG&E as a retailer of electricity in Marin with the aim of cutting the emission of greenhouse gases by boosting renewable energy use.

Dawn Weisz, the authority's interim director, said regardless of whether Proposition 16 passes the authority will be able to launch its second phase and expand its customer base beyond the 7,500 customers that it is currently marketing to in phase one of its rollout.

But Weisz said, "It might affect Larkspur, Novato and Corte Madera if they decide to come on board later."