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State holds three public hearings on Puget Sound Energy’s proposed merger and rate-increase requests

May 6, 2008
Docket Nos. U-072375, UE-072300, UG-072301

OLYMPIA, Wash. Customers of Puget Sound Energy (PSE) will be able to comment to state regulators on the utility’s proposed merger and request to increase electricity and natural gas rates at three public meetings in May and June.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has scheduled three public meetings to hear utility customers’ views at 6:30 p.m. as follows:

Thursday, May 15 at Bellevue Community College, Room 130 B, 3000 Landerholm Circle S.E., Bellevue;
Tuesday, May 20 at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center, 315 Halleck St., Bellingham; and
Wednesday, June 4 at the Richard Hemstad Building (UTC headquarters), second-floor hearing room, 1300 S. Evergreen Park Dr. S.W., Olympia.
Customer comments made in Bellevue, Bellingham and Olympia will be made part of the official record in the case.

In addition, the commission staff is hosting a less formal, informational meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28 in the Madrona Room of the Woodinville Community Center/Carol Edwards Center, 17401 133rd Ave. N.E., Woodinville. UTC staff members, representatives from the company and the Public Counsel Section of the Attorney General’s Office will attend. Customers are welcome to ask questions but only written comments can be included in the legal record for each case. Customers who wish to comment on PSE’s merger or rate-hike proposal can direct their correspondence to: P.O. Box 47250 Olympia, Washington 98504 or e-mail us at comments@utc.wa.gov. Comment forms also will be available at the Woodinville meeting.

In December 2007, PSE asked the UTC for approval to collect additional revenues of $174.5 million for electric customers and $56.7 million for natural gas customers. If approved, the utility estimates an average residential customer would see electric rates increase about 12 percent or about $10.48 a month. PSE is requesting a $3 increase in the basic monthly charge for electricity customers.

The company is also proposing to raise the basic monthly natural gas charge from $8.25 to $18, while reducing the average rate per therm of gas consumed from 31 to 23.7 cents. The net effect of this proposal is that a typical residential natural-gas bill would rise by about 6 percent, or about $4.60 a month.

Recommendations to the commission from all parties are due May 30 on the rate case and June 18 for the merger proposal. The commission will make a final decision in November on the rate case.

In the merger proceeding, Puget has requested the commission approve the sale of the electric and gas utility to an investor group from Australia, Canada and the United States. The company filed the request last December. The transaction is valued at $7.4 billion. PSE has asked for UTC purchase approval by Sept. 2.

The commission has received 1,513 public comments to date on the proposed merger – 20 in favor, 48 undecided and 1,445 opposed. The UTC also has received about 2,854 public comments on the rate-hike request – 27 in favor, 73 undecided and 2,754 opposed.

Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy is the state’s largest electric and natural gas utility, serving more than 1 million electric and 729,000 natural gas customers in 11 counties, primarily in Western Washington.

The three-member commission is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.

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Staff contact: Marilyn Meehan
Posted/updated: 09/09/2008

 

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