Hearing set on Pacific Power rate increase

If approved, a 5.3 percent rate hike for Pacific Power would take effect Jan. 1.

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A proposed rate increase for Pacific Power customers will be the hot topic of a public hearing Monday in Yakima.

State regulators will give the public a chance to weigh in on a proposal that would tack another $4.79 per month for the electric utility’s average residential customer, including those from Walla Walla to Dayton.

The session begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Parker Room at Yakima Valley Community College. Those who can’t attend but want to have their say can mail, e-mail or call in their comments to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission by Oct. 30.

If the proposal is approved the new rates would take effect Jan. 1.

The proposed increase is about one-third of Portland-based Pacific Power’s original request. In February, the company asked the commission for $38.5 million in additional revenues per year, or a 15.1 percent increase. Under a settlement proposal filed with the Utilities and Transportation Commission, the company would be allowed to collect $13.5 million, or 5.3 percent more per year.

The increase amounts to $4.79 for the average residential electric customer using 1,300 kilowatt hours per month. Customers could also see a 2-cent increase each month for a contribution to the low-income bill assistance program. That piece would increase from 44 to 46 cents per month.

All parties in the case, including the UTC regulatory staff, the Public Counsel of the Attorney Generals Office, the Energy Project and the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities signed the settlement.

Mike Parvinen, assistant director of energy at the UTC, said public testimony can help the commission raise questions for Pacific Power.

He said the testimony may not result in a direct adjustment to rates, which must be determined to be "fair, just, reasonable and sufficient."

However, the comments help the commission with its decision, he added. Afterward they’re made into an exhibit for the formal record.

As of Monday, the UTC had received 66 public comments — 63 opposed, two in favor and one undecided to the rate hike.
Pacific Power’s request follows an 8.5 percent increase implemented last fall.

In its February filing with the UTC, the utility said the rate hike is expected to help recover costs associated with new generating capacity and last year’s purchase of a 520-megawatt natural gas-generating plant in Chehalis, Wash.

About 130,000 customers in five Eastern Washington counties are served by Pacific Power.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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