Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Never-Ending Utility Bill meets the No-Win Situation

The Manteca Bulletin has become required reading lately and once again, it doesn't disappoint!

In April we posted about how, in order to recoup costs, PG&E was going to continue billing former customers in Hercules even after they ditched the utility. Well the chickens are coming home to roost in simlar fashion in Ripon!

Kind of like voting in Chicago, where people have been known to cast ballots even after they are dead, the practice of billing customers after they have opted out (or in some cases, billing consumers who were never customers at all) has not been well received. Calling the practice "legalized theft," the locals are restless, to say the least.

What's really interesting in the Bulletin, however, is Managing Editor Dennis Wyatt's analysis of the conundrum that utilies found themselves in over the erstwhile ballot initiative known as Prop 98.

Prop 98 went down in flames last month, while the other eminent domain measure on the ballot, Prop 99 was approved by voters.
According to Wyatt, had 98 passed, PG&E and others would have had a powerful new piece of legislation with which to crush various municipalities, districts, etc. that are trying to take over and run their own power systems. But it also would have seriously curtailied utilities' abilities to aquire via eminent domain easements and parcels for thigns like power lines and dams:

"PG&E and other quasi-public electrical utilities in California facing attempts by local jurisdictions to take away part of their service electricity via eminent domain to reduce energy costs for their constituents were neutral on Prop. 98 even though it could have been a big help in blocking such moves. The reason can be found in the powers vested by the California Legislature over the years into quasi-public agencies such as PG&E. They essentially have been granted eminent domain powers to put in place everything from dams and power plants to power and natural gas lines. Passage of Prop. 98 would have severely curtailed PG&E's ability to act like the government and take land for its power needs."