SEATTLE – Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Public Counsel Unit today challenged a $32 million electric rate increase proposed by PacifiCorp, which operates in Washington as Pacific Power and Light Company. PacifiCorp serves approximately 132,000 electric customers in Yakima, Walla Walla, Garfield and Columbia Counties. Public Counsel believes the 9.5 percent rate increase for residential customers is too high.
“This would be their fifth rate increase in the last five years, and it is not justified based on our accounting analysis,” said Ferguson. “In addition, seeking to nearly double the basic monthly charge hurts customers who use less electricity, and is a deterrent to conservation.”
The AGO also challenged the need for dramatic increases in customer reconnection fees. These fees are charged when a customer has been disconnected for not paying the bill, and then needs to be reconnected. These fees are generally borne by the most vulnerable of PacifiCorp’s customers, and the company’s proposal would unnecessarily burden these customers, making reconnection more difficult.
Ferguson’s Public Counsel Unit filed expert testimony today with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) that analyzes a number of elements of PacifiCorp’s proposal. Highlights of the testimony include recommendations that the UTC:
• Reject PacifiCorp’s request for an increase to its shareholder profit margin.
• Reject significant increases to the company’s connection and reconnection fees, ranging from 69 percent to 313 percent.
• Reject the company’s request to increase the customer fixed charge by 81 percent, raising the fixed monthly charge customers pay from $7.75 to $14 per month. Public Counsel recommends the charge remain at its current level.
• Reject the company’s new version of a proposed power cost adjustment mechanism, a variation of which was rejected by the UTC in the last PacifiCorp case.
If the UTC accepts Public Counsel’s adjustments, PacifiCorp’s electric rates would be limited to a maximum of $12.6 million (reducing the requested increase by approximately two thirds, or $20 million). The rate increase would be further reduced to $2.6 million if the commission again rejects $10 million of PacifiCorp out-of-state power costs, previously denied in PacifiCorp’s last rate case. Other parties, such as commission staff or the industrial customers, may recommend additional reductions that would further reduce the size of any increase.
PacifiCorp will have an opportunity to file rebuttal testimony addressing Public Counsel and other parties’ recommendations. Hearings will be held by the UTC in December 2014. The final rates will be set by the commission after reviewing the evidence submitted by the parties. A commission decision is expected no later than March 2015.
Prior to this request, PacifiCorp has received four rate increases since 2010, raising rates a combined $18 per month for the average customer.
Members of the public can comment on the rate case in a number of ways.
Written comments may be sent to UTC, P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA, 98504, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and mailing address, the name of the company (PacifiCorp), and docket no. UE 140762.
For more information, customers may contact either the UTC or Public Counsel:
• UTC – (800) 562-6150, e-mail at email@example.com. Information is available online at www.wutc.wa.gov. Enter docket no. UE 130043.
• Attorney General’s Office Public Counsel Section -- Public Counsel, Attorney General’s Office, 800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA 98104-3188, or e-mail 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 http://www.atg.wa.gov/about-public-counsel.
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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.
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Acting Communications Director
Simon J. ffitch, Senior Assistant Attorney General