Regulators seek aid for electricity hike
P O R T L A N D ( A P ) — Oregon utility regulators are asking Congress to provide financial relief to the more than 1 million customers in this state hit by this week’s hike in electricity rates.
The Oregon Public Utility Commission said Friday that each day of the u nex p e c t ed rat e h i ke, which stems from a federal appeals court ruling, costs Oregon customers $351,000. And the commission suggested a one-year rate change relief for customers would assist them while the issue is hashed out among utilities, regulators and the court.
The commission also joined other Northwest utility regulators to urge the Justice Department to allow Bonneville Power Administration to seek reconsideration of the ruling that ultimately led to the rate change.
The Oregon Public Utility Commission approved the rate hike on Monday, which affects some residential and small-farm electricity customers of private utilities. The change took effect Friday, raising rates by 13 percent for PGE and PacifiCorp customers and 6 percent for customers of Idaho Power.
‘‘When we reluctantly raised customers’ rates this week due to the cutoff of BPA benefits, we also made a commitment to do everything within our power to restore the benefits customers are entitled to,’’ Commission Cha ir man L ee Beyer said in a statement. ‘‘We are optimistic our Congressional delegation will see how serious this issue is and we strongly urge them to get involved in crafting solutions.’’
The change is a ripple effect of a recent federal appeals court ruling in a lawsuit filed against the Bonneville Power Administration by public utilities.
The rate hike af fects about 75 percent of electricity customers in Oregon.
In a May 3 ruling, the 9 th U. S. Circu it Cou r t of Appeals said the BPA, which is a federal agency that provides a large bulk of the energy for the region, had previously overstepped its authority when it set an annual subsidy to reduce electricity rates for residential and small farm customers of the privately owned utilities.
The BPA and its utility customers have long fought over the appropriate level of the subsidy, known as the ‘‘residential exchange’’ program. The BPA says it continues to work with utilities one-on-one and is looking at other means to resolve the conflict that grows increasingly tense.