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News Release
Law Judge Grants Delay Request for NW Natural Gas Company's Proposed Purchase of PGE
March 19, 2002 - (2002 - 005)(UM 1045)
Contacts:  Roy Hemmingway, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Lee Beyer, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR – Today Northwest Natural Gas Company requested, and an Administrative Law Judge agreed, to revise the schedule for the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s review of the Company’s proposed purchase of Portland General Electric.
The development came in a prehearing conference among formal parties in the case to discuss the current schedule.  Northwest Natural requested the delay to provide additional time to address issues related to Enron’s bankruptcy.  Enron currently owns PGE.
Administrative Law Judge Michael Grant approved a 60-day suspension in the current schedule.  Under the new schedule, a final Commission decision on the proposed merger would likely come in early to mid October.
During the suspension period PUC staff work will continue its examination of the proposed purchase, as will other formal parties to the case.
An additional scheduling conference will be held at the end of the 60-day period on May 17, 2002.
Under the new schedule the length of the review from initial filing to a decision would be approximately 10 months, which is approximately how long it took the Commission to decide the last three merger cases.
Oregon law (ORS) 757.511 governs the PUC’s standard of review for the proposed sale.  Under this standard, NW Natural must demonstrate that customers will benefit from the transaction and that the sale is in the public interest.  Examples of customer benefits may include increased operating efficiencies, improved service quality, lower customer rates, enhanced services, and financial stability. 
The PUC uses a trial-like process to review the sale of a utility.  This process includes several rounds of written testimony and public hearings. Numerous consumer groups, industry representatives, public interest organizations, and individual customers are participating as formal parties.  The PUC must make its decision based on information contained in the official record.