Port Angeles plans to protest electricity rate increases

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — City staff plans to oppose rate increases proposed by the Bonneville Power Administration that could cost the city an additional $1 million per year in electricity costs after firm direction to do so by City Council members.

“This is an economic assault on Port Angeles,” Mayor Cherie Kidd said at Tuesday’s meeting, “on every single person in Port Angeles.”

The proposed increases, stemming in part from a change in the way the Bonneville Power Administration, or BPA, bills its electric transmission customers, would go into effect in October and could increase the amount the city pays for electricity transmission by 55 percent to 60 percent, said Phil Lusk, the city’s deputy director for power and telecommunication systems.

Not a sure thing

The changes are far from a sure thing, Lusk said, and the city has not yet determined how much individual utility customer bills would increase if the new rates are made permanent.

BPA estimates that the proposed rate increases could increase utility transmission rates for all its customers an average of 11.2 percent and an average of 9.6 percent for power generation rates.

Changes also could affect public utility districts in Clallam and Jefferson counties, though the Jefferson Public Utility District will not provide its customers with electrical power, purchased from BPA, until this spring.

Work with state group

At Tuesday’s meeting, city Public Works Director Glenn Cutler said he was asking for City Council permission for city staff to assist the Western Public Agencies Group, an association of 16 Washington and Oregon public utilities that is involved in BPA rate discussions and policy issues, in addressing the proposed rate increases.

Cutler said he was seeking support for the city to lobby BPA to potentially change its mind.

“I think it’s important we get involved early,” Cutler said, “provide comments early and often to BPA.”

City Council members voted 7-0 to direct City Manager Dan McKeen and city staff to work with the Western Public Agencies Group toward that end, with Kidd saying during the meeting that council members also should encourage residents to get involved.

“I think we have to do everything possible,” Kidd said.

“I think BPA is way out of bounds here.”

Public comment

Public comment on the proposal is being accepted until Feb. 15.

It can be submitted through the BPA’s website at http://tinyurl.com/BPARates — scroll down to “BP-14 Rate Proceeding” — by phoning 800-622-4519 and referencing the BP-14 rate proceeding or by mailing comments to BPA, P.O. Box 14428, Portland, OR 97293, BPA officials have said.

In a Thursday interview, McKeen said his staff members are considering various options, including writing to the North Olympic Peninsula’s representatives in Washington, D.C.

“I will be meeting internally [with staff] to determine what our strategies will be with this,” McKeen said.

“I just know that we do need to ensure that BPA understands the impact to Port Angeles and our residents.”

Lusk said the city also is working with the Western Public Agencies Group on analysis of the power use and transmission predictions BPA used to developed the proposed rate increases to make sure the agency’s information is accurate.

“That’s one thing we can do that’s proactive,” Lusk said.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 17. 2013 5:48PM
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