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Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Who’s he represent?

IMAGE: ww photo illustration

BY WW EDITORIAL STAFF, Willamette Weekly 2/4/09

This week’s Rogue, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, seems to have forgotten he represents Oregonians—550,000 of whom are PacifiCorp customers—rather than PacifiCorp.

At issue is Senate Bill 76, introduced last month at Kulongoski’s request. That bill is part of an effort to solve the decades-long water war in southern Oregon by providing funding for demolition of four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River.

But the bill Kulongoski introduced has greens seeing red and ratepayer advocates fuming.

WaterWatch and Oregon Wild, two environmental groups that want the dams removed, object to a provision that would let PacifiCorp collect $200 million from Oregon ratepayers for demolition—but would allow the utility to keep the money for its own purposes if the dams remain intact. Both groups say the dams could remain because negotiations are so complicated they could drag on indefinitely or collapse altogether.

“If PacifiCorp keeps the dams and the money, they’re way better off,” says Steve Pedery of Oregon Wild.

Ratepayer advocates have a different concern: a lack of independent analysis showing dam removal makes sense. Normally, the Oregon Public Utility Commission does such number-crunching, but Kulongoski’s bill shortcuts that step.

Melinda Davison, an attorney for Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, says even an amended bill released Tuesday is no good. Davison says the bill “still mandates cost recovery from taxpayers without normal regulatory protections. It’s a cart-before-the-horse problem.”

Kulongoski spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor notes several enviro groups support SB 76, and that the PUC will ensure that if the dams aren’t removed, PacifiCorp will spend collected monies only for ratepayer benefit.

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