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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2008
Attorney General’s Public Counsel and other consumer groups oppose Puget Sound Energy’s request to raise rates even more

SEATTLE – Weeks after Puget Sound Energy informed customers by mail that it wants to raise gas and electric rates, the company is seeking more money – nearly $6 million more than its original request. The Public Counsel Section of the Attorney General’s Office, which represents residential and small business customers, is opposing PSE’s request and today filed a response with the state Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. Two other consumer groups – The Energy Project, an advocacy group for limited-income consumers, and the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities – have joined Public Counsel’s opposition.

“We don’t believe state law allows Puget Sound Energy to have its rate request be a moving target,” said Public Counsel Section Chief, Simon ffitch. “If the company wants a larger rate increase, it needs to file a new case for that amount and provide new notice to its customers. That will allow additional time for the commission and others to review the full new request. PSE’s request also adds to our existing concern that, in light of the data we’ve seen, the proposed rate increase is excessive and puts an unfair burden on customers.” 

Bellevue-based PSE, Washington’s oldest and largest energy utility, wants to raise rates for its more than 1 million electric customers and 725,000 gas customers in Western Washington.

PSE filed its initial request with the UTC in December 2007 to take in an additional $174.5 million in revenues from electric customers and $56.7 million from gas customers. The company also requested to raise the monthly base charge, which all customers pay regardless of usage, by nearly $3 for electric customers and $10 for gas customers. Customers received a special notice about the proposed changes with their March bills.

Then on April 14, 2008, PSE filed documents with the WUTC seeking permission to increase its original request by $5.8 million – $4.8 million for electric customers and $1.3 million for gas customers.

The commission is expected to make a decision on the proposed rate hikes later this year. Before that can happen, however, it must determine whether to allow PSE to change its original request. That decision is expected in a few weeks.

The commission has scheduled three public hearings in Bellevue, Bellingham and Olympia to consider customer comments.

  • BELLEVUE: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 15, Bellevue Community College, Room 130 B, 3000 Landerholm Circle S.E.
  • BELLINGHAM: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, Bellingham Senior Activity Center, 315 Halleck St.
  • OLYMPIA: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, Utilities and Transportation Commission Office, 1300 S. Evergreen Park Dr. S.W.

{UPDATE}: UTC staff are also hosting a less formal, informational meeting in Woodinville. 

  • 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, Woodinville Community Center/Carol Edwards Center, Madrona Room, 17401 133rd Ave. N.E.

Customers can also submit comments to the WUTC via e-mail at comments@wutc.wa.gov, online at www.wutc.wa.gov/comment or call toll-free 1-800-562-6150. Details about the company’s proposed rate changes are online at www.wutc.wa.gov. Enter the following numbers in the docket field:
• 072300 (electric) 
072301 (natural gas)



The Public Counsel Section advocates for the interests of consumers on major rate cases, mergers and other rulemakings before the UTC. Public Counsel also advocates for consumers in court appeals, through technical study groups and before the Legislature and other policy makers. The office maintains contact with the public through a citizen advisory committee, community organizations, public hearings and personal contact with consumers in major cases. More information about Public Counsel’s work is available online at www.atg.wa.gov/utilities.aspx.
Contacts: Simon ffitch, Public Counsel Section Chief, (206) 389-2055
Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager - Seattle, (206) 464-6432

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

 

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