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PGE Seeking to Dismiss Class Action Suit For Charging Tax They Didn't Pay

Multnomah County Circuit Court will Hear PGE Motions to Dismiss Class Action Suit for Charging Ratepayers over $7 million for Multnomah County Business Income Taxe that PGE Not Pay
Judge John Wittmayer of the Multnomah County Circuit Court will hear argument on PGE's motions to dismiss this case on Monday, December 12, at 11:00 a.m.

Courtroom of Judge John Wittmayer

Multnomah County Courthouse, Room 518
1021 S.W. 4th Avenue

Portland, Oregon 97204

December 12 11:00 a.m.

Background

In response to a class action lawsuit filed against Portland General Electric Co. (PGE) in February 2005, PGE in October 2005 announced it would remove a charge from all of its electric bills to customers in Multnomah County. That is the charge labeled "Multnomah County tax," which PGE claimed to represent the Multnomah County Business Income Tax (MCBIT) it was paying to Multnomah County. In fact, while PGE has charged ratepayers in Multnomah County over $7 million for this "tax" since 1997, PGE in fact has paid less over that entire period than a total of $4,000 to Multnomah County for the MCBIT tax, and its parent Enron has apparently paid nothing at all.

PGE says it is removing the charge as of October 14, 2005.

At issue, however, is how much money PGE must pay back to the ratepayers who paid this charge over the past 9 years. PGE pledged to repay a unspecified amount of the past phony tax charges to ratepayers. PGE claims that it is legally liable only for the past 3 years (around $2 million), but attorneys for the ratepayers contend that PGE must repay the amounts collected for at least the past 10 years (over $7 million), with interest. PGE wants to ask the Multnomah County Circuit Court to define its refund obligation.

The court action was put on hold for 3 months, while PGE sought from the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) an order allowing it to keep the money and continue to impose the MCBIT charges on ratepayers, even thought PGE is not paying that tax. On October 6, however, the OPUC ruled against PGE. The declaratory ruling PGE requested was that the OPUC rules somehow required PGE to charge Multnomah County ratepayers for the MCBIT that it never paid. In OPUC Order No. 05-1064, the Commission concluded that its rules do not require this. The order noted that Qwest, the phone company, ceased charging its customers for MCBIT, and in fact made refunds to customers, "when it began filing its taxes on a consolidated basis with its parent company." PGE was consolidated with Enron in every year since 1997, except for 2002.

Daniel Meek, attorney
10949 S.W. 4th Avenue
Portland, OR 97219
(503) 293-9021
 dan@meek.net