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December 30, 2008
AGO Public Counsel’s statement on UTC’s decision to approve purchase of Puget Sound Energy

The Washington State Attorney General’s Public Counsel Section today issued the following statement about the state Utilities and Transportation Commission’s 2-1 decision to approve a settlement permitting acquisition of Puget Sound Energy by a consortium of private equity investors:

The Attorney General’s Public Counsel Section, which advocates for the interests of consumers on major rate cases, had repeatedly expressed concerns that the settlement provisions do not do enough to address public interest concerns with the sale.

“This is a lengthy order and we’re still reviewing the details, but our initial review leads to disappointment,” said Public Counsel Section Chief Simon ffitch. “We believe the thousands of Puget Sound Energy customers who voiced their opposition to this sale will feel the same.
“The commission’s order concludes that certain conditions and clarifications stated on paper will be sufficient to protect customers. The question now is whether they will be enough in the real world. 
“Our office presented evidence that the sale did not pass the ‘no harm’ test. We remain concerned that a transaction that increases the financial risk for PSE and its customers is the wrong choice, particularly in this economic climate and particularly because it offers no tangible benefits to customers. Commissioner Philip Jones in his dissent noted these same concerns.”

“The burden will now be on PSE and its new owners to honor their commitments to the commission and to PSE’s customers. At the same time, state regulators must be vigilant in their enforcement of the conditions, commitments and requirements that are contained in this deal."

The Public Counsel Section advocates for the interests of consumers on major rate cases, mergers and other rulemakings before the UTC. Public Counsel also advocates for consumers in court appeals, through technical study groups and before the Legislature and other policy makers. The office maintains contact with the public through a citizen advisory committee, community organizations, public hearings and personal contact with consumers in major cases. More information about Public Counsel’s work is available online

Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager - Seattle, (206) 464-6432, cell: (206) 437-2654

Editor’s Note: The spelling of Simon ffitch is correct – the surname begins with two lowercase f’s.

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