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September 24, 2004
Public Counsel and Low-Income Advocates Seek to Trim PSE Rate Hike

SEATTLE -- The Attorney General's Public Counsel section today challenged rate increases proposed by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) that would add about $5 to a typical residential customer's monthly electrical bill, and about $4.35 to a gas bill.

Papers opposing the proposed rate increases were filed today with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC). PSE's request would generate an additional $81.6 million from electric customers and $47 million more from gas customers.

Public Counsel's financial expert filed an analysis that concluded that a reasonable return on investment for PSE would be 9.75 percent, rather than the 11.75 percent requested by the company. If the Public Counsel figures are adopted by the WUTC, the action would trim about 60 percent off PSE's proposed electric rate increase, and about 40 percent off the gas rate increase.

Testimony from a second expert, co-sponsored by low income advocacy group the Energy Project, found that PSE's proposal unfairly shifts costs to residential customers and low-volume energy users, and that it dramatically increases the fixed monthly "customer charges" that electric and gas customers pay regardless of the amount of energy used.

The WUTC's decision is expected in early 2005 after hearings are held in December and January. Public comment hearings are scheduled Nov. 10 at the Bellevue High School Performing Arts Center from 6-8 p.m., and on Dec. 16 at the WUTC Hearing Room in Olympia at 1300 S. Evergreen Park Drive SW from 6-8 p.m.

PSE, which has its headquarters in Bellevue, has approximately 850,000 residential electric customers and 580,000 residential gas customers. The company's service territory is primarily in western Washington.


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