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PacifiCorp surcharge increase approved
by John Bowman, The Daily Independent, Ridgecrest, Calif, 11/1/12

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Oct. 25 ruled in favor of PacifiCorp’s request to increase the rate at which they collect Klamath River dam removal surcharges from their customers.

PacifiCorp began applying the first surcharge to customer bills on Jan. 10. The original surcharge was two percent of a customer’s monthly bill and equals about $1.61 per residential customer on average, according to PacifiCorp.

On Jan. 13, PacifiCorp filed a petition to increase the surcharge. They calculate the average increase will be an additional twenty-one cents per residential customer, raising the total to an average of $1.82. PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said the company began applying the increase to customers’ bills on Monday.

The surcharge is intended to fund PacifiCorp’s share of the cost of dam removal under the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA). According to the agreement, dam removal is scheduled to begin in 2020 but is contingent upon the passage of legislation by Congress to authorize the agreement.

PacifiCorp told the PUC that, due to a delay in the initiation of the original surcharge, the collection of funds was behind schedule and would therefore need to be increased to make up for lost time.

On July 20, Siskiyou County filed a brief with the PUC objecting to the increase in surcharge collection. One major objection offered by the county is based on their belief that congressional passage of necessary legislation is becoming less likely over time, therefore making dam removal less likely and undermining the necessity for the surcharge collection.

“With the Secretary [of the Interior] putting off his determination and the flaws that we’ve seen in the actual underlying scientific work that’s been done, the justification for this fee appears even more shaky than it was,” said Siskiyou County Counsel Tom Guarino after filing the brief.

The county’s brief also offered two other objections to the increase. They alleged, on one hand, that the delay in surcharge collection made it unlikely that PacifiCorp could meet the timeline established by the KHSA stating, “modifying the amortization period will not result in collection of the funds in the amount and under the timelines established by the KHSA.” They simultaneously alleged that increases in demand for power between now and 2020 could result in over collection of dam removal surcharge funds.

According to Gravely, “The company will monitor the surcharge amounts over the next seven years to ensure collections don't exceed the targeted $13.76 million. We would revise the rate downward if that happens to ensure we don’t exceed the cap.”

Regarding the possibility of surcharge collection not adhering to the KHSA timeline, Gravely said, “There is no automatic trigger that terminates the KHSA if collections are off by a couple of months. The agreement is flexible enough to allow for small variations in timing.”

The congressional legislation to authorize the dam removal agreements and give Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar the power to make the final determination on dam removal was introduced in November 2011 but has since stalled.

Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors Chair Grace Bennett responded to the PUC decision Tuesday telling the Daily News, “I’m very disappointed in the decision. I think it’s just terrible that they ignore the people here locally and all the information and objections we’ve submitted. They just don’t listen to us here locally where it will have the biggest impact.”

In a non-binding 2010 local ballot measure, 79 percent of Siskiyou County voters opposed the removal of the dams.




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