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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 26, 2005
Public Counsel Objects to Avista's Proposed Energy Rate Increases


SEATTLE – The Public Counsel Section of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office today recommended the state Utilities and Transportation Commission reject a request by Avista to increase revenues by nearly $23 million by raising energy rates for its Eastern Washington customers.

“Avista’s proposed rate increases would present a hardship for residents and small businesses in Eastern Washington, who have already seen their power rates go up steeply several times since 2000,” Public Counsel Section Chief Simon ffitch said. “Moreover, analysis by our experts shows that rate increases of the size proposed by Avista are not justified by operating expenses or necessary to allow the company to maintain a reasonable profit.”

The Public Counsel Section filed expert witness testimony at the UTC opposing Avista’s request. The testimony contends that Avista should receive an increase of no more than $11.7 million in electric revenues and about $200,000 in natural gas revenues. These figures equate to residential rate increases of 2.3 percent and 0.15 percent, respectively.

The Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, an association of large businesses, is also expected to file expert testimony today objecting to the rate increase proposal, ffitch said.

In March, Avista filed a proposal to raise residential electric rates by 14.3 percent and natural gas rates by 2.1 percent. The proposed increases would have generated nearly $39 million in additional revenues.

Earlier this month, the company reached an agreement with the UTC staff that, if approved, would increase electric revenues by $22.1 million and natural gas rates by nearly $1 million. Electricity rates for residents would climb an average of 8.9 percent, while the gas rates would go up 0.68 percent.

The UTC is expected to issue a decision by the end of the year. The commission will examine evidence presented by Public Counsel and other parties opposed to the rate increase. It will also consider expert testimony at an Oct. 17 hearing in Olympia.

The commission has announced it will schedule a public hearing in Spokane in October to hear comments from affected customers. The public can also submit comments to the UTC via e-mail at comments@wutc.wa.gov.

The Public Counsel Section represents consumers who would not otherwise have an effective voice regarding utility rates, services and business practices.

Avista, formerly known as Washington Water Power, has headquarters in Spokane and serves customers in 10 counties: Asotin, Adams, Franklin, Klickitat, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens and Whitman. The company provides electricity to 220,000 customers, and natural gas to 134,000 customers.

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For more information contact:
Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432
Simon ffitch, Public Counsel Section Chief, (206) 389-2055

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

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