On the eve of emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced Wednesday it made 2003 local franchise fee and surcharge payments totaling $42 million in 49 California counties in which it operates. The payments, which were nearly equal for natural gas and electric facilities, represent a 22% increase over the combination utility’s 2002 payments.

The fees are a percentage of gross receipts on the utility’s system that are paid to cities and counties for the “right to use public streets” in which to run gas and electric service pipes and wires, PG&E’s utility said in its announcement. The franchise fee surcharges are a percentage of the transportation and energy costs to customers choosing to buy their energy from third parties, or so-called “exit fees.”

PG&E’s utility said it serves as a “collection agency” for the latter surcharges and passes the amounts on to the counties. These payments are due on or before March 31 each year. The utility payments help support local services, including policy and fire protection, education, public health and environmental services.

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