Morning Splash: PG&E Fine Less Than Advertised; PG&E Wants to Charge for SmartMeter Opt-Out
- State regulators cut deal with PG&E over pipe safety records (San Jose Mercury News)
In an agreement one lawmaker denounced as a “backroom deal,” state regulators on Thursday proposed fining PG&E a total of $3 million for failing to turn over natural gas-line safety records, instead of sticking with their initial plan to penalize the company up to $1 million a day for what could have been months. If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the eleventh-hour settlement would ease a looming crisis for PG&E over its failure to satisfy the commission’s demand that by March 15 it provide records proving its pipes are at safe pressure levels. One analyst had predicted that the company might face fines totaling hundreds of millions of dollars if the commission followed through on its initial threat. Paul Clanon, the commission’s executive director, defended the proposed deal because it requires PG&E to provide the records according to a highly detailed timeline, with documents about the oldest and most worrisome pipes due by Aug. 31.
- SmartMeters: PG&E wants to charge users to opt out (SF Chronicle)
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers afraid of the radiation from the company’s wireless SmartMeter may soon have a choice: Accept the device as is. Or ask PG&E to turn off the meter’s transmitter – and pay higher monthly bills as a result. As much as $20 more per month.
- After a wild day, the rain may back off (SF Chronicle)
…Forecasters say rain will spatter off and on today, and again Saturday and Sunday morning. But after that, there may be – gasp – steady sunshine for the first time in more than a week.
- Brown signs off on $11.2 billion in cuts, still seeks GOP help (Sacramento Bee)
Gov. Jerry Brown signed budget bills Thursday that hike community college fees and slash welfare grants, but his work on the state deficit is far from over. The Democratic governor is still searching for Republican support to place extensions of higher taxes on the ballot as time runs out to call a mid-June election.
- Sales taxes set to go up in a few CA cities (Andrew S. Ross, SF Chronicle)
Shoppers in certain Bay Area cities be warned: You have just seven days left before you start coughing up more at the check-out line. As of April 1, sales taxes in Union City and El Cerrito shoot up to 10.25 percent from 9.75 percent. San Leandro’s rate hits 10 percent, a smaller increase, but still hurtful, especially on big-ticket items.
- Confessed gunman in Chauncey Bailey case struggles with testimony (Chauncey Bailey Project)
Devaughndre Broussard, the admitted killer of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey, struggled through testimony Thursday against former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV, the man he says ordered him to commit two slayings…The 23-year-old Broussard struggled through his testimony throughout the day, and minutes after taking the stand, was asking for questions to be repeated, and seemed to find it difficult to formulate answers. Bey IV’s court-appointed lawyer, Gene Peretti, made numerous objections in the first few minutes.
- AC Transit cool to request to extend youth pass to 19-year-old students (Contra Costa Times)
AC Transit says it would be saddled with too high a cost — some $625,000 a year — if it extended its youth discount bus pass to Oakland public school students 19 or older to accommodate refugees and special-education pupils who take longer to finish school. In a letter approved Wednesday night, the AC Transit board said it is struggling to avoid further service cuts even without taking on a new cost to expand the youth pass currently limited to those 18 or younger. The district projects a $21 million budget deficit in June 2012 at the end of the next fiscal year.
- P. Lamont Ewell named Oakland’s interim city administrator (Oakland Tribune)
P. Lamont Ewell started his job as Oakland’s fire chief 13 days before the devastating Oct. 20, 1991, conflagration swept through the Oakland and Berkeley hills, leaving 25 dead and 3,500 homes destroyed in its fiery wake. Now, Mayor Jean Quan has brought back Ewell as interim city administrator in the hopes he can help put out a different kind of fire: the city’s growing budget crisis. He starts Monday, and said he was excited to come back and help in any way he could.
- After Twitter Exemption, Firms Take Closer Look at Tax (Bay Citizen)
A rare provision in San Francisco’s business tax code that taxes companies when employees cash in their stock options has caused a stir in this hotbed of fledgling tech companies. Remarkably, few companies even knew about the tax, which has been in effect for seven years. But since city officials offered Twitter a payroll-tax break as an incentive for it to remain in San Francisco (the company is considered likely to go public soon), the stock-option provision has suddenly come under intense scrutiny.
- Tuberculosis cases drop to record low in SF, CA (SF Chronicle)
California had fewer cases of tuberculosis in 2010 than ever before, and even San Francisco, which has among the highest TB rates in the country, reached record low levels last year, public health officials announced Thursday. But the state was still well above the rates called for by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The 10 Whitest Cities in the Bay Area (Bay Citizen)
(Marin C)ounty includes seven of the 10 whitest communities in the Bay Area, according to the latest census figures.
The draft report, released Wednesday, came in response to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s determination that Marin had “failed to comply” with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and two other anti-discrimination statutes. Marin’s Community Development Agency recommended amending zoning regulations to ease the construction of new apartments, passing new laws requiring new developments to offer housing at below-market rates, and stepping up programs to combat discrimination by landlords and realtors.