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Read about sale of PSE, rate increase in next power bill

Reporter Staff

The Attorney General’s Public Counsel Section, which represents the public in utility rate cases, says Puget Sound Energy customers need to keep an eye out for a special notice in their April/May bills.

Bellevue-based PSE, Washington’s oldest and largest energy utility, wants to raise rates for its more than 1 million electric customers and 725,000 gas customers in western Washington. In addition, PSE’s parent company is proposing a sale of the company to an international consortium of investors from Australia, Canada and the United States in a deal valued at more than $7 billion. If the acquisition moves forward, PSE will no longer be a publicly traded company.

Monthly bills, now arriving in the mail, will include a notice with details of the proposed rate increase and the sale transaction, as well as a detachable comment card for customers to tell state regulators what they think about the company’s proposals. Customers also have an opportunity to speak out during three public hearings scheduled this spring in Bellevue, Bellingham and Olympia.

“The new comment cards are a great way for customers to voice their opinions to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, which has the final say on whether to approve Puget Sound Energy’s proposals,” said Public Counsel Chief Simon ffitch (Note: Mr.. ffitch spells his name with two lowercase fs.).

PSE filed a request with the UTC in December 2007 to take in an additional $174.5 million in revenues from electric customers and $56.7 million from gas customers. In addition, PSE has requested to raise the monthly base charge, which all customers pay regardless of usage, by nearly $3 for electric customers and $10 for gas customers.

If the commission approves PSE’s request, residential customers will see their monthly electric bills increase by nearly 12 percent, on average, while gas bills would rise by nearly six percent, on average.

“We’re concerned with the data we have seen so far from PSE and believe the requested increases are excessive,” ffitch said. He said the Public Counsel Section plans to file formal testimony with the UTC on May 23 with recommendations regarding the rate request.

“Public Counsel also is taking a close look at the company’s proposed sale,” ffitch continued. “We’re specifically reviewing the potential impact the sale may have on PSE’s financial and operational soundness, service quality and customer rates.”

The UTC will make the final decision on both the proposed rate increases and the merger. For the UTC to approve the merger, it must find that the sale is in the public’s interest and will not cause harm to PSE’s customers.

The commission has scheduled three public hearings to consider customer comments in May. Times and places can be found on the Web site. In addition to the public hearings and comment cards, customers can also submit comments via e-mail at comments@wutc.wa.gov, online at www.wutc.wa.gov/comment or call the UTC toll-free at 1-800-562-6150.

Details about the company’s proposals are included in the bill notice and online at www.wutc.wa.gov; enter 072300 (electric) and/or 072301 (natural gas) in the docket lookup field.

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