SEATTLE — The Attorney General’s Office has challenged Avista Corp.’s request to raise rates for its utility customers, instead recommending a reduction for electric rates.
In written testimony filed yesterday, the Attorney General’s Public Counsel Unit — which represents the customers of state-regulated utility companies — told the state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) that Avista should give its electricity customers a $29 million (5.9 percent) rate reduction and limit its rate increase to its natural gas customers to $3.3 million (about 2 percent). The UTC regulates utility rates.
“Our role is to represent ratepayers and ensure they get a fair deal,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Avista’s proposed rates are too high. My office’s recommendation would ensure a rate that is fair, just, reasonable and sufficient, as required by state law.”
The Attorney General’s Office had previously joined with other stakeholders to work with Avista, a Spokane-based utility, to reach an agreement on several items that reduced the size of Avista’s requested rate increase. Instead of an increase of $33.2 million (6.75 percent) for electric and $12 million (6.9 percent) for natural gas, the utility is now asking for increases of $17 million and $11.3 million, respectively.
However, several issues are still disputed. Based on its assessment of those issues, the Attorney General’s Office reached its recommendation for the rate decrease for electric and a smaller increase for natural gas.
The disputes involve issues like plant investment, regulatory costs and whether to implement smart meters.
Under the agreement already reached with Avista, shareholder profits would be reduced, any rate increase will apply equally to all customer classes, and the basic monthly charge for these services would not increase even if the rates for usage do. The agreement is still subject to approval by the UTC.
Avista will have an opportunity to file rebuttal testimony. Hearings will be held in the fall, and a decision is expected by December 2015.
Avista serves approximately 241,000 electric customers and 152,000 natural gas customers in Eastern Washington.
Members of the public can comment on the rate case in a number of ways.
The commission will hold two public comment hearings:
Spokane: Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., in the Spokane City Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard, Spokane. The commission will begin taking comments from members of the public at 6 p.m., ending no later than 7:30 p.m.
Spokane Valley: Wednesday, Sept. 16, from 12 p.m. (noon) to 1:30 p.m., in the Spokane Valley Council Chambers, 11707 E. Sprague Avenue, Spokane Valley. The commission will begin taking comments from members of the public at 12 p.m. (noon), ending no later than 1:30 p.m.
Written comments may be sent by mail to UTC, P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA, 98504, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and mailing address, the name of the company (Avista), and docket no. UE 150204 / UG 150205 (electric and gas).
For more information, customers may contact either the UTC or Public Counsel:
- UTC — (800) 562-6150, email at email@example.com. Information is available online at www.wutc.wa.gov. Enter docket no. UE 150204 (electric) or UG 150205 (natural gas).
- Attorney General’s Office Public Counsel Unit — Public Counsel, Attorney General’s Office, 800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA 98104-3188, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Public Counsel Unit advocates for the interests of consumers on major rate cases, mergers, rulemakings, and other proceedings before the UTC. More information about Public Counsel’s work is available online at www.atg.wa.gov/about-public-counsel.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov