On Monday, October 28 the Washington agency responsible for oversight of utilities (Utilities and Transportation Commission or UTC) will be in Spokane to receive public comment on Avista’s requested 13.7% rate increase. The Commissioners don’t often come to Spokane, so this is a valuable opportunity to make our case. Below you can find the details about where and when the meeting will be held. Also included are talking points and additional background on this issue.
Even if you can’t make the hearing on Monday, please take 3 minutes to make a public comment in writing. We don’t get many chances to affect important decision making where utilities are concerned. Let’s make them count!
ATTEND THE HEARING
Monday, Oct. 28, 6 pm
Northeast Community Center
4001 N Cook St., Spokane
Consider getting there at least 15 minutes early. When you arrive, sign in saying that you want to make a public comment. Remember that the Commissioners are like the judges in the rate case. They are impartial arbiters. This isn’t an opportunity for a give and take. Don’t treat them with any hostility. We want them on our side. You are providing public testimony to help them make a good decision on the rate case.
CAN’T ATTEND BUT HAVE 3 MINUTES TO COMMENT?
Ratepayers who want to comment on the proposed plans can submit comments online at www.utc.wa.gov/comments; write to P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA, 98504; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or call toll-free 1-888-333-9882.
Be sure to reference the docket as the UTC covers more than just Avista. Docket number: UE-190334 and UG-190335
Subject line: Docket number: UE-190334 and UG-190335
Dear Commissioners, please accept the following comments related to Avista’s requested rate increase.
TALKING POINTS – consider hitting on some of these points in your oral or written comments. Choose one or more, but try to put them into your own words and into terms that relate to your own experience and concerns.
- Large rate increases harm low-income residents. Our friends and neighbors with less income are disproportionately harmed by large rate increases like this.
- Avista should stop propping up the plant when there is no benefit to customers. Last spring (2019) the Washington legislature passed the 100% clean energy bill, which requires that no coal-based electricity be sold in Washington as of 2025. However, Avista has not yet committed to shutting down the plant at that time and is pouring millions of dollars in capital expenses to prop it up. Much of the proposed rate increase comes from expenses related to the aging and polluting Colstrip coal plant. Rate payers should no longer have to pay for capital expenses related to Colstrip.
- Avista needs set aside money to clean up Colstrip and help local workers transition. Avista received a $103 million dollar windfall from the failed merger with HydroOne. Why not use that money as a down payment to plan for the closure of Colstrip? Avista needs to provide a funding plan for cleaning up the toxic Colstrip coal ash ponds. Puget Sound Energy (a partial owner of Colstrip with Avista and others) has set aside up to $350 million. A proportional amount for Avista would be $100 million, yet they have no plan for this large financial burden to future customers, who will never use the plant. Similarly, Avista should set aside money to help transition the workers at Colstrip to new clean energy jobs.
In September, 350 Spokane and Fuse sent the UTC Commissioners a letter outlining the proposed rate increases and their relationship to the coal-fired electrical plant at Colstrip, Montana. Read the letter here.
The following background was provided in a media advisory from the UTC:
In April, Avista filed a general rate case with the commission to request a two-year rate plan for its electric and gas customers. For the first year of the rate plan, the company requested $45.8 million in additional electric revenue and $12.9 million in additional gas revenue. For the second year, the company requested an additional increase of $18.9 million in electric revenues and $6.5 million in natural gas revenues.
The company’s proposed rates would increase the average residential electric customer’s bill by $7.93, for an average monthly bill of $89.14. The company’s proposal would also raise the average residential natural gas customer’s bill by $4.60, for an average monthly bill of $51.
In October, Commission energy staff recommended smaller increases to electric and natural gas rates after reviewing the company’s operating costs and new infrastructure investments.
Under staff’s proposed rates for the first year of the rate plan, Avista’s average residential electric customer using 918 kilowatt hours a month would pay $4.72 more a month, for an average monthly bill of $85.93. Avista’s average residential natural gas customer using 66 therms a month would pay $2.97 more, for an average monthly bill of $49.37.
The three-member commission, which is not bound by the staff recommendation, will make a final decision on the utility’s rate request next spring. New rates would go into effect April 2020.
The commission has received 115 public comments to date on Avista’s rate proposal—114 opposed and one undecided.
The company last filed a rate case in 2017.
What is the UTC?
“The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.”