The general counsel of the Mississippi Public Service Commission issued a cease and desist letter to the Monroe County Electric Power Association Friday morning regarding refusal to reconnect electric service due to late tax payments.
The letter states, “The commission has been made aware that Monroe County Electric Power Association (MCEPA) is denying access to electric utility service on the grounds that payment of taxes on a mobile home is a condition to receiving utility service; this internal policy is not supported by state law, violates MCEPA’s obligation to serve and the Rules and Regulations Governing Public Utility Service. On Thursday, March 19, 2020, an informal complaint was filed at the Mississippi Public Service Commission (“Commission”) regarding access to electric utility service with MCEPA. In an email, you communicated that the member-owner had been disconnected for nonpayment, and following the applicant of the deposit, was refunded a remaining total.
“When the individual attempted to restore electric utility service, MCEPA denied said service, stating ‘It is a state law that we have to see the most current tax receipts for a mobile home. If the individual would like his power to be turned back on, we would have to see that the taxes have been paid.’ While Miss. Code Ann. 27-53-5 requires the owner of a mobile home to register it with the county tax collector, and that a utility cannot provide service without proof of registration, that in no way makes payment of said taxes a condition to receiving electric utility service. I am aware of no other state statute that makes payment of taxes a condition to receiving utility service.
“Accept this letter as the Commission’s demand that MCEPA shall immediately cease and desist the implementation of this internal policy. If the Commission does not receive confirmation, in writing, by the close of business today, Friday, March 20, 2020, It will commence enforcement proceedings that, pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. 77-1-53, could result in the Commission levying fines against MCEPA of $5,000 per day.
“Please provide a copy of this letter to the Monroe County Electric Power Association Board of Directors. A copy of this letter is being transmitted to the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi.”
Monroe County EPA responded through its attorney, Scott Hendrix, in a letter to Frank Farmer, general counsel to the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
His letter states, “The Monroe County Electric Power Association is in receipt of your letter of today relating to the application of the above statute. Without speaking to whether or not this falls within the jurisdiction of the Commission or TVA, I wanted to write to clarify this matter. The Association requires only a current mobile home registration, payment of a deposit and compliance with applicable service practice policies to establish service, either new service or service after surrender of a membership for non-payment. There is no internal policy requiring the payment of taxes as described in your letter. The individual in question has not been denied service at this time. He has not yet signed the membership application, paid the required deposit or provided the necessary ‘current registration certificate’ discussed below. Once provided, signed and paid, his service will be established.
“Mr. [Monroe County EPA General Manager Barry] Rowland’s reference in his email to as to tax receipt refers to the requirement that a current mobile home registration ins required from the Tax Collector in order to establish service per Miss. Code Ann. 27-53-5, which in turn requires that the taxes be paid to obtain such registration certificate. It is the Tax Collector, not the Association, that is charged with making certain that the appropriate taxes are paid prior to registering the home in question. However, it is as your letter states, and we agree, the Association’s legal responsibility to make sure a ‘current registration certificate’ is in hand prior to establishing service. As we understand it, a ‘current registration certificate’ cannot be obtained without payment of taxes, the payment of taxes themselves is not the requirement for service. Simply put, the Association needs the individual in question to present the ‘current registration certificate’ for service to be reestablished. We apologize for any confusion to this end.
“We trust that this explanation satisfies your concerns for this matter. We will address the difference with our staff to make sure the distinction is made between tax payments and registration certificates is more clear in the future.”