Power bill gets hearing
Bill would increase PacifiCorp rates to pay
for removing 4 dams
By Ty Beaver, Herald and News 2/4/09
Opponents who argue a bill to raise power rates would open the
door to future unchecked rate increases squared off Tuesday with
those who say the bill prevents such abuses and paves the way for
resolving ongoing Klamath Basin issues.
The Oregon Legislature’s Senate Environment and Natural Resources
Committee hosted its first hearing on Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s bill
to raise $180 million to help pay for removal of four
hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River.
Supporters say the bill — which would increase power rates for
PacifiCorp’s average Oregon customer by about $1.50 a month — is
needed to implement the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement . They
dismiss claims the legislation would expose ratepayers to
increased financial liability if dam removal occurs.
But opponents, including state Sen. Doug Whitsett, R -K amath
Falls, have said the bill leaves ratepayers on the hook and
criticize it for making Oregonians pay for removal of three dams
in California. The fourth dam, J.C. Boyle, is in Klamath County.
Proponents include the Citizens’ Utility Board, a ratepayer
advocacy group. Craig Tucker of the Karuk Tribe, said the state’s
Public Utilities Commission will be required to review the bill
even if it is approved by the state Legislature.
“We feel so confident that this is the best deal, we have no
problem with that,” he said. Open to increases
But Whitsett contends the bill’s wording leaves ratepayers open to
further rate increases, possibly as high as $35 to $ 65 per month,
while also pointing out that the full cost of dam removal is not
Tucker countered charges the bill was flawed, saying opposition is
more due to an ideological opposition to dam removal itself.
The restoration agreement allocates water in the Klamath River
Basin among irrigators, conservationists, tribes and fisheries.
Dam removal is key component and must happen for it to be
A group of stakeholders, state and federal officials and
representatives from PacifiCorp reached a tentative dam removal
agreement in November. They have until July 1 to hammer out a
final agreement, with dam removal beginning no later than the year
Kulongoski promised he’d bring about the legislation during the
current legislative session that would direct the state’s Public
Utility Commission to raise PacifiCorp’s rates to pay for dam
The $ 180 million, along with $20 million from PacifiCorp’s
ratepayers in other states, will be combined with $250 million in
voter approved bonds from the state of California to help pay for
PacifiCorp has said that the increase would raise the average
Oregon customer’s bill by about $1.50 a month. Agricultural power
users would see about a 2-percent increase in their bill.
If dam removal does not take place, the money would be returned to