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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2012
Public Counsel questions Avista’s need for increased rates

SEATTLE – The Public Counsel Unit of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office today challenged electric and gas rate increases proposed by Avista Corp.

The Spokane-based utility is requesting rates that would generate an additional $40.9 million in revenue from its electric customers and an additional $10.1 million in revenue from its natural gas customers.  Senior Assistant Attorney General Simon ffitch called the request an unjustified burden on customers after Avista’s last request, which just took effect January 1.

“Public Counsel has questions about Avista’s case on a range of issues,” ffitch said. “We believe Avista may be charging its customers for expenses that should be borne by its shareholders.  Moreover, Avista’s customers have expressed a high degree of weariness for the rapid, back-to-back rate increases.  Many of the customer comments demonstrate that they are at their limits in terms of absorbing the increases.”

Public Counsel filed expert testimony today that analyzes a number of elements of Avista’s proposal. Highlights of the Public Counsel submission include recommendations that the UTC:

  • Eliminate or greatly reduce Avista’s request for a $20 million “attrition” adjustment, which the company argues is designed to address regulatory lag in recovering the cost of new plant additions.  The Industrial Customers of NW Utilities (ICNU) and Northwest Industrial Gas Users (NWIGU) joined Public Counsel in sponsoring this recommendation. 
  • Reject the Company’s request to increase the customer charge by 67 percent, raising the basic monthly charge customers pay from $6 to $10 per month.  Public Counsel recommends a smaller increase.
  • Reduce amounts in rates related to executive compensation and Board of Director costs by $1.8 million.  The Commission had specifically requested additional information related to Avista’s executive pay practices and required Avista to file a report on its executive compensation practices in conjunction with this case.
  • Correct a $2.9 million error in Avista’s case regarding claimed federal income tax expense.
  • Reject the Northwest Energy Coalition’s request to allow Avista to recapture a portion of electric revenues which it loses due to the company’s energy efficiency programs.

If the UTC accepts Public Counsel’s adjustments, Avista’s electric rate request would be reduced by more than $30 million.   Its gas request would be reduced by more than $4 million.  Other parties, such as Commission Staff or ICNU, may recommend additional reductions in other areas.

Avista will have an opportunity to file rebuttal testimony addressing Public Counsel and other parties’ recommendations.  Hearings will be held in the fall, and a Commission decision is expected by March 2013.

Avista serves approximately 236,000 electric customers and 149,000 natural gas customers in Eastern Washington.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Members of the public may comment on the rate case in a number of ways.

The Commission will hold two public comment hearings, one in Spokane and one in Spokane Valley:

Spokane:  6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 27
Spokane City Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard, Spokane
The Commission will begin taking comments from members of the public at 6p.m., ending no later than 7:30 p.m.

Spokane Valley:  Noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, September 28
Spokane Valley Council Chambers, 11707 E. Sprague Avenue, Spokane Valley
The Commission will begin taking comments from members of the public at noon, ending no later than 1:30 p.m.

Written comments may be sent:

  • Via US Mail to: UTC, P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA, 98504
  • Via e-mail to: comments@utc.wa.gov.
    Include your name and mailing address, the name of the company (Avista), and docket no. UE 120436 /120437 (electric and gas).

For more information, customers may contact either the UTC or Public Counsel:

  • UTC: (800) 562-6150, comments@wutc.wa.gov. Information is available online at www.wutc.wa.gov. Enter docket no. UE 120436 (electric) or UG 120437 (natural gas).
  • Attorney General’s Office Public Counsel Section -- Public Counsel, Attorney General’s Office, 800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA 98104-3188, or utility@atg.wa.gov 

The Public Counsel Section 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/Utilities/AboutPublicCounsel.aspx.

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

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Contact:
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725
Simon ffitch, Public Counsel Section Chief, (206) 389-2055
John Carr, ICNU Executive Director, (971) 544-7169
Ed Finklea, NWIGU Executive Director, (503) 303-4061


 

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