Bid nixed for second look at power rate hike

Pacific Power and staff at the Utilities and Transportation Commission had sought reconsideration of a March decision.

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Power rates won't be going up higher than they already have any time soon. But they also won't be going down, according to a ruling this morning from the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The regulatory agency has denied requests to reconsider the rate increase that it had approved for Pacific Power customers effective April 3.

In a decision issued this morning, the regulatory agency denied petitions from Pacific Power and Utilities and Transportation Commission staff asking for reconsideration of the increase that was approved March 25. That order resulted n a roughly $11.26 jump in the bill of the average residential customer using 1,300 kilowatt-hours per month. That rate puts the average monthly bill for residents at $105.30.

In response to the decision the electric provider and Utilities and Transportation staff -- which operates separately from the decision-making body of the UTC -- filed separate petitions asking the commission for reconsideration.

Both sides argued the increase granted by the three-member commission was erroneous. However, Pacific Power's request for reconsideration would likely have resulted in a higher rate for the 130,000 customers served by the utility, while UTC staff's request would likely have resulted in a decrease.

"There will be no change to customer electricity rates," UTC spokeswoman Marilyn Meehan summarized in an email that included today's order.

Meehan said Pacific Power and UTC staff now have 30 calendar days -- until June 13 -- to appeal the commission's decision to a superior court in Pacific Power's Washington service territory or Thurston County.

As they stand, the current rates allow Pacific Power's parent company, PacifiCorp, to pull in about $38 million in additional revenue per year. The Portland utility has said the increased rates are needed to pay for new power and gas-supply contracts and to offset increased costs, additional transmission and distribution facilities and a natural gas plant in Chehalis.

That increase was about two-thirds of Pacific Power's original request when the subject was broached last May with the regulatory commission.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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