The 12 percent increase in electricity rates approved last week by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is outrageous.
A double-digit rate increase is simply not reasonable given the current economic climate. The Great Recession has forced employers to hold wages static or lay off workers. Folks are having a difficult time making ends meet. The average residential customer will end up paying about $135 more per year because of the approved rate hike.
This large rate increase has the potential to make the economic situation worse for employers and employees as it could drive some large energy users out of business - or out of the country.
For example, Boise Paper in Wallula will likely see an annual power bill increase of $2.5 million.
Will that be enough to force Boise Paper to shut down the Wallula mill and drive those jobs overseas? Boise officials voiced their concerns prior to the decision on this rate hike. Time will tell.
Pacific Power officials contend higher rates were needed to pay for new power and gas-supply contracts.
The UTC said the increase was driven by higher power costs, additional transmission and distribution facilities and a natural gas plant in Chehalis deferred from the last rate case.
The new rates will garner Pacific Power about $38 million more a year.
Pacific Power had originally asked the UTC for a nearly 21 percent overall rate increase, which would have resulted in an additional $56.7 million for the company. That request was subsequently lowered to $48.5 million or almost 18 percent.
It make zero difference whether Pacific Power asked for 21 percent more or 80 percent more. The company was shooting for Pluto and hoping to hit Mars. It scored.
As we said prior to this decision, a double-digit increase in power rates is just too much.
Given the added expenses of Pacific Power, including many that are beyond its control, we felt a single-digit increase would have been acceptable. Frankly, it's still more than the pay raises most workers received - if they received a pay raise.
The UTC received 297 public comments on the rate increase. Five were neutral or undecided, one was in favor and 291 were opposed.
The commissioners apparently didn't give much consideration to the consumers' feelings - or the impact the rate increase would have on their finances.
The UTC made a terrible decision.