SACRAMENTO — A letter from Southern California Edison, linking support for its so-called “bailout bill” to national security in the wake of terrorist attacks, is being hammered by opponents as a desperate act and cynical offense to thousands of Americans killed Sept. 11.
Edison International President John E. Bryson made the link in a letter to company shareholders Sept. 21. The letter asked them to lobby California senators to pass a bill to stave off bankruptcy for the troubled utility. Edison estimates its debt from paying wholesale costs of electricity during deregulation at $3.9 billion.
“During this time of national crisis we need stability in the California electric system,” Bryson wrote Edison shareholders. “An Edison bankruptcy will destabilize that essential system and will have major adverse impacts on an already fragile California economy.”
Bryson called it “irresponsible and destabilizing,” for the state Senate to ignore the bill, “particularly during this time of national and economic uncertainty.”
State Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, the Senate’s president pro tempore, said of the language, “I thought it was unseemly, and a desperate act from a desperate person. Maybe we’ll do them a favor and put it up for a vote and show there’s three people who will support it.”
Bryson’s letter is a shot at winning Senate support when it returns to the Capitol Oct. 9. Senators failed to vote on the Edison bill in the last hours of the 2001 legislative session that ended Sept. 15.
The bill, a version of a deal reached by Gov. Gray Davis and Edison in April, passed the Assembly. Earlier variations of the deal involved the state buying Edison’s transmission lines and letting the utility sell consumer-backed bonds to repay the remaining debt.
Harvey Rosenfield, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, called Bryson’s letter a ploy to “wrap the American flag around the bailout.”
In a letter to Bryson, Rosenfield wrote Bryson that equating “what has happened to this nation in the last three weeks with your company’s self-inflicted financial wounds is a grievous offense to the memories of the six thousand men, women and children” killed on Sept 11.
“Leave it to Harvey Rosenfield to exploit this,” said Edison spokesman Steve Hanson.
Burton, who called the Edison bill a “rip off of residential people,” said it doesn’t have a chance of passing during next week’s special session.