This tax season Pacific Gas and Electric Co. wrote checks collectively totaling $100 million for franchise fees and surcharges to the 244 cities in California in which it provide natural gas and electricity distribution utility services. It turned out to be $62 million for its electricity service operations and $38 million for the natural gas system. Another $39 million was paid to counties, the utility said.

PG&E said it earlier paid a little more than another $100 million in property taxes, meaning that in total since March when it began cutting checks, it has paid nearly $240 million in funds supporting city and county governments.

In California the fees are a percentage of the gross receipts flowing through the power lines and gas pipelines in cities and counties. This is the charge for the utility's right to use public streets under which to run gas pipe and power lines, PG&E said. The franchise fee surcharge is a percentage of the transportation and energy costs to customers choosing to buy their own energy from third-party suppliers. PG&E collects these amounts and passes the funds on to the cities.

Nancy McFadden, PG&E senior vice president for public affairs, emphasized that the utility property taxes, franchise fees and other taxes collectively represent a constant stream of revenue that local governments can count on to support the many important services they provide, ranging from public safety to public education and public health.

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