Washington AG challenges Avista rate hike

Chris Rizo Jan. 29, 2009, 9:58am

Rob McKenna (R)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline)-Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna has filed an appeal challenging Avista's electric and gas rate increase that took effect this month.

The rate hike, approved by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, came on the heels of Avista's settlement agreement with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe over ownership of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

The settlement resolved the tribe's claim over Avista's use of the lake as a water storage facility for its Spokane River Hydroelectric Project.

Spokane, Wash.-based Avista agreed to pay the tribe $39 million. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission has allowed Avista to recover all of the settlement money from ratepayers.

The commission authorized rate increases to generate an additional $37.3 million in revenues -- $32.5 million from electric ratepayers and $4.8 million from gas customers.

The attorney general's office said the additional revenues would amount to a 9 percent boost in the company's revenues from electric rates and a more than 2 percent increase in gas revenues.

The attorney general's appeal was filed in Thurston County Superior Court.

"Public Counsel believes there are key legal errors in the commission's decision that warrant an appeal," said Simon ffitch, chief of the attorney general's office Public Counsel Section.

Among them: the utility was allowed to increase its electric revenue request by 30 percent nearly half way through the case without requiring the company to file new tariffs to reflect the increase.

"Public Counsel believes this violates the tariff filing requirements in Washington law," a statement from the AG's office said.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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