Dennis Nichols has been a Merced Irrigation District electric customer since the day he turned on the lights in his Merced home six years ago. But last month he received a letter from PG&E that said the company would soon start billing him about nine dollars a month for the next three years.
Nichols says, "That's really un-American for a company to bill me when I receive no goods or services from that company. It would be like McDonalds sending me a bill for hamburgers that I forgot to go buy and eat."
Nichols is one of about 5,500 M.I.D. customers who will start being charged by PG&E in June. A spokesperson for the company says the bills will cover costs related to the 2001 energy crisis and the deregulation of the state's power industry. She says most of the money will go back to the state agency that helped keep the lights on during that time.
Nicole Tam, PG&E Spokesperson, says, "PG&E customers have been paying these charges from the very, very beginning, so essentially this decision ensures that every California electric customer is treated fairly."
But M.I.D. officials see the situation very differently. Garith Krause, M.I.D. General Manager, says, "I kind of think in my mind it's an administrative and regulatory mugging of the Merced Irrigation District customer much to the detriment of our customers."
Krause says M.I.D. fought against the fees for about six years before the California Public Utilities Commission said in February that PG&E must start collecting the bills. But that doesn't mean M.I.D. customers are ready or willing to pay.
Nichols says, "Personally I refuse to pay. I don't know what their recourse is going to be. I really don't think they have one."
M.I.D. customers and officials are now hoping state Senator Jeff Denham and Assembly member Cathleen Galgiani may be able to take up the issue in the state legislature.