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New power rates take effect next month

Electricity rates for Pacific Power residential customers will climb about $4 a month as the result of two actions by state regulators yesterday, Wednesday.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved a multi-party settlement that allows Pacific Power to raise electricity rates 8.5 percent - or about $7 a month for the average residential customer - starting in mid-October.

In a separate action, regulators accepted the reinstatement of a federal power credit for Pacific Power residential and small farm customers, effectively reducing the rate increase by about $3 for the average residential customer beginning Nov. 1.

As a result, the typical residential customer will see their monthly bill increase next month by about $4, to $89.

The monthly increase for a typical household includes a 75-cent change in the basic service charge, from $5.25 to $6. Originally, the utility had proposed a $1.75 increase in the basic monthly service charge that all customers pay regardless of the amount of electricity used.

Pacific Power will realize an additional $20.4 million in revenue, less than the $34.9 million the company originally requested.

All parties in the rate case proceeding filed a settlement on Aug. 4 agreeing to the increased rates. Parties agreeing to the settlement were: Pacific Power, utilities and transportation commission staff and the industrial customers of northwest utilities. Also agreeing to the settlement were the Energy Project, which represents low-income ratepayers, and the public counsel section of the attorney general's office, which represents the interests of residential and commercial customers.

The commission has received 531 public comments, 500 opposed, 25 in favor and six undecided about the rate increase.

The commission's acceptance of the bill credits follows action by the Bonneville Power Administration to reinstate the federal benefits from the region's low-cost hydroelectric power system. The Bonneville Power Administration suspended the credits 16 months ago after the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found they did not conform to federal law. BPA reinstated the credits based on revised methods in a decision issued Sept. 22.

Pacific Power has 126,000 electric customers in five Washington counties, including Yakima County.

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