Country club tees up suit against PacifiCorp

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WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla Country Club is suing PacifiCorp in an attempt to stop the power company from charging the club $104,176 in disconnection fees that club officials claim are unnecessary and wasteful.

The issue centers around decades-old contracts between Portland-based PacifiCorp, parent company of electricity provider Pacific Power, and the club.

Under the terms, if the Walla Walla Country Club wants to stop using PacifiCorp as its electricity supplier, PacifiCorp must remove all of its equipment and can charge the club for removal fees.

In previous Union-Bulletin interviews, PacifiCorp representative Bill Clemens said the company is required to follow the rules and tariffs of the contract, which was originally approved by the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, which regulates public utility companies.

Clemens defended the practice of removal of conduit, saying PacifiCorp has both an obligation to commission-approved rules and to ensure its own ratepayers aren’t affected by the cost of the removal.

“Our main focus with these removals is to make sure we don’t pass any costs on to our existing customers who are also city residents,” he said.

In an interview Friday, club general manager Jeff Thomas pointed out that the conduit doesn’t need to be removed and can actually be used by the new electricity supplier, Columbia Rural Electric Association.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in Walla Walla County Superior Court, removal of the two underground conduit lines would costs $66,718.

The City of Walla Walla resolved a similar situation with PacifiCorp this year when the city wanted to start selling its excess power instead to Columbia REA.

“It was just so stupid,” Walla Walla City Manager Nabiel Shawa said Friday. “They wanted to pull out the conduit, and then we would have to pay for them to pull it out. And then we would have to go pay Columbia REA to put in new conduit.”

The city threatened to take over the conduit through a process of eminent domain, at which point PacifiCorp “backed off,” Shawa said.

The suit asks that PacifiCorp be forced to leave the conduit in the ground, though it would be entitled to a salvage value payment of about $10,000.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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