I don't want to pay my PG&E bill

Holes in the wall

A little over three months ago there was supposedly a gas leak somewhere in the neighborhood. A Pacific Gas & Electric technician came in to my apartment and turned the gas off, and then over the next couple of weeks there were workers (not from PG&E) around the building. At one point they tore a hole in my bedroom wall and left it there for days.

Eventually an inspector came in and signed off that the system was safely fixed. The workers came back and patched up the hole in my bedroom wall. And no one ever turned the gas back on in my apartment. I’ve confirmed this by turning the thermostat up to 90° when it’s 60° inside. Nothing happens.

I have since received three bills from PG&E. Not very large bills, but it seemed that it must be for more gas than I’ve used, unless it’s still leaking. A few weeks ago I angrily tweeted my displeasure with PG&E’s automated pay system (and in-person pay centers) charging $1.25 for the privilege of giving them money.

Examining my bill more closely, I now see that I’ve been accruing charges for the time my service has been shut off. For three months in a row now, I have been getting bills for a little over three dollars each month for «transportation fees» which I assume is a fancy way of saying that I’m paying for the privilege of having gas transported to my location.

I suppose that I don’t mind the idea that I would pay a minimum fee just for having service. However, I’m disinclined to pay them at all for service which PG&E disconnected and never turned back on. If they want me to pay a flat minimum fee for access to gas, I think that should be predicated on whether I actually have access to gas.

I grew up in New England, and I remember more mornings where the temperature was below -20°F than I can count. I live in California, where I can’t tell you the last time it dropped below fifty degrees here. I don’t have a gas stove, although I would prefer one. This one wall heater is the one possible source of natural gas I could use. Most of the time I keep the front door open. If I get cold, I close the door. If I get really cold, I close the windows. If I get really cold, I put a sweater on. It rarely ever gets colder than that, so I haven’t really cared whether I have heat in my apartment.

The thing that will be really funny will be when they start threatening to disconnect my gas. I look forward to calling them up to say, «hi, I received this notice that you’re going to shut off my gas if I don’t pay my gas bill. That won’t be possible unless you turn it on first.»

Never mind that threatening to cut off gas to someone who has used zero therms in the last three months seems like a threat without much teeth.

My only real question is: do I have any obligation to tell them that they haven’t reconnected my gas? Because honestly, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to pay even three dollars per month for something I don’t use.

Comments

Is it possible that your gas is connected but your furnace is turned off? Every appliance has to have a shut-off. Since people were working in your apartment, they might have turned it off. Or maybe the pilot never got relit. Does the furnace have an electronic pilot? My propane stove has a pilot with a mechanical sparker. No pilot, no heat.

And what were the people doing in your bedroom wall? It looks like some kind of plumbing. Gas? Maybe they screwed it up.

I think there are lots of places to look before blaming PG&E. They could well be to blame, but I’d check out everything else before accusing them.

I don’t believe you have any recourse against PG&E unless you have informed them of the problem. How could they tell whether your lack of usage was because it wasn’t cold or because their line was not connected? I think it is safe to assume that most people would complain if their gas wasn’t working. Before you call them, you might check the furnace. PG&E might bill you if they come to your place and find it is not their problem.

Dad

The guy from PG&E who came around to disconnect the heater did something farther back behind the heater than just turn the pilot off. The workmen that cut open the wall may have done everything except relight the pilot after the system was inspected.

PG&E apparently does not charge to send someone out to light pilots: http://www.pge.com/en/myhome/servicerequests/pilotlight/index.page

That said, I’m pretty sure I don’t want my pilot lit. Looking at past months bills when I had the heater turned off and the pilot was lit, that cost me about $8/month on top of the $3/month just to have service. That seems just stupid.

I guess what I ought to do is just call them up and cancel service. I’m guessing that’s illegal, though. So I’ll pay them $36/year on the off chance that I might want to turn on this heater some day.

I really hate paying money in order to get nothing. Really hate that.

Oh, and let me be clear. I don’t feel I’ve been wronged by being deprived of gas. Indeed, if I felt the need for gas I would have called someone or at least checked to see if the pilot was lit. I just don’t like paying for something I’m not getting.

How could they tell whether your lack of usage was because it wasn’t cold or because their line was not connected?

Months where the heater was never in use but the pilot was running: 10 therms per month. The last three months combined: 0 therms used.

Granted, 10 therms per month seems like a lot for a single pilot light. Maybe I’ve been paying for a gas leak for the last two years?

And what were the people doing in your bedroom wall?

The heater is on the other side of that wall. Apparently that’s where the gas pipes are.

We leave the pilot off during the summer. It only takes a few seconds to relight it when it gets cool.

Do you have a CO detector? Just curious.

Dad