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Residents to mull new PG&E charges

A controversial monthly Pacific Gas and Electric Co. bill is about to make its way to Merced Irrigation District electric service customers — and people aren’t happy about it.

Many of these customers don’t use PG&E electrical services, said Garith Krause, general manager of MID: “We feel this is very unfair.”

MID will host a public forum at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Merced Community Senior Center to collect feedback from its customers about the fees and answer their questions. MID, PG&E and California Public Utilities Commission representatives, along with Senator Jeff Denham and Assembly Member Cathleen Galgiani, are expected to attend.

Krause said he hopes representatives will be encouraged to go back to the legislature for a resolution. “The solution in my mind is that there would be none of these charges.”

About 5,500 Merced, Livingston and Atwater residents received notices last month from PG&E telling them to expect charges beginning in June of about $9 a month. The charges will continue over the next three years.

Fall-out from the 2001 energy crisis, deregulation of California’s power industry and PG&E’s subsequent financial woes created costs that need to be covered, said Nicole Tam, PG&E spokeswoman.

About 72 percent will go to the state Department of Water Resources, which assisted public utilities companies during the energy crisis. And 25 percent will cover costs PG&E accrued from the state’s energy restructuring.

Only 3 percent of the money stays with PG&E for nuclear decommissioning and other costs, Tam said.

She plans to attend Tuesday's meeting. “I do understand the frustration and anger,” she said. “It is something that is complex and difficult to grasp.”

And it’s also unreasonable, maintains MID. It has opposed these charges for about six years, referring to them as “taxation without any services.”

MID has also accumulated debt. “But no one is allowing us to charge other people recover those charges,” Krause said. “We can’t do that to their customers.”

The difference is that PG&E has an obligation to serve every current and future customer in California, Tam said. If someone relocates in the state, the agency must have the resources — energy, power lines, poles, personnel, etc. — to supply their needs.

Publicly owned utilities, such as MID, don’t have this same obligation.

“I don’t want want to minimize people’s feeling about this,” she added. “It’s great they will be asking questions.”

What: Public meeting regarding PG&E’s new municipal departing load chargesWhen: 5:30 p.m. TuesdayWhere: Merced Community Senior Center, 755 West 15th St., MercedFor more information, contact the Merced Irrigation District at (209) 722-5761