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Utility Deal Checks Due For Delivery

POSTED February 22, 2011 10:54 p.m.

Customers in the local area who were charged by PG&E in a controversial move to cover costs previously incurred by the utility learned this week that ‘the check is in the mail.’

The checks to more than 8,200 homes and businesses in more than a half dozen communities throughout the Central Valley, including Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon, constitutes a refund of the charges assessed starting in 2008.

Among those at the forefront of the fight to get the money refunded and the charges stopped was Kurt Danziger of Escalon.

“I’m not getting a refund because I didn’t pay,” Danziger said of refusing to send the utility money he felt was unwarranted in the first place. “But the 8,200 homes and businesses that were affected here and did pay will get the money back.”

The charges by PG&E sought to collect funds from customers in the Modesto and Merced irrigation districts’ electricity service area, PG&E seeking to cover costs for serving those areas before the districts took over. When electric service was deregulated, some irrigation districts moved in to the retail power business. PG&E contended that since it had put in the infrastructure, it should be able to recoup those costs by charging customers in the areas the irrigation districts sought to serve.

Danziger said the grassroots effort to rally against the charges was successful, resulting in the agreement to refund the money, approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Over 950 customers in Oakdale should see the refund checks, with just over 250 due in Escalon, and more than 200 in Riverbank. Other communities affected by the charges were Ripon, Livingston, Atwater and Merced.

“Back in April, 2008, everybody got a letter from PG&E and MID,” Danziger said of first learning about the new fees, which were separate, above and beyond the monthly power bill. “We just thought it was wrong.”

Winding its way through the court system, the sides eventually reached an agreement that saw the two irrigation districts agree to pay PG&E over $1.5 million to cover the larger utility’s costs in laying the groundwork for the service in the areas now served by the irrigation districts.

The Modesto and Merced irrigation districts become ‘stand alone’ utilities as part of the agreement and PG&E has gained some stability with the agreement as well.

Danziger said a formula was agreed upon that will see new customers in new developments — not existing customers — pay a one time fee as part of the utility cost recovery package.

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