Charge on WG&L bills is not new

Water, Gas & Light in Albany

Water, Gas & Light in Albany

ALBANY, Ga. -- Lorie Farkas sighed as she listened to a reporter's inquiry about calls and squawks The Albany Herald has received from a number of Water, Gas & Light Commission customers who complained that their bills reflect a new charge for "sequestration."

"We've gotten some of those calls, too," the WG&L assistant general manager for customer relations and marketing said.

The "new charge" in question is a line item on electric bills labeled "ECCR." It's a charge, Farkas explained, that has been part of customers' bills for "some time" but had only recently been listed as a separate item.

"That charge -- Environmental Compliance Cost Recovery -- comes from the federal government putting new and stringent cleanup measures on all coal-burning plants," Farkas said Tuesday. "The federal EPA required it, and the cost was passed on to customers who receive electricity from coal-burning plants. It's been a requirement for quite some time.

"This is the second month, the second billing cycle, that we've actually broken that cost out on a separate line item to show customers."

Farkas said she'd tried every way possible to let WG&L's 40,000 customers know that the ECCR line item is not a new charge.

"I sent out a detailed bill stuffer two months before the (Water, Gas & Light Commission board) decided to separate this item on bills," she said. "Every customer we have got one. And I know this was talked about in the media, in your paper and on television. But people generally throw those stuffers away without reading them, and if you ask about a news item they claim they don't watch TV news or read the paper.

"But these are the only methods I have available to let people know, and we tried to utilize every one of them. It's been precisely explained, very clearly stated, but we're always going to get calls like this from some customers."

Farkas said the federally mandated cleanup charge is based on customer usage, not a set rate.