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
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.