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Press Release
NW Natural Customers to Receive One-Time Refund From Property Sales
August 13, 2004 (2004 - 024)(UM 1148)
Contacts: Lee Beyer, Chairman, 503 378-6611; John Savage, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Ray Baum, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR – An investigation by the Oregon Public Utility Commission will result in a $1.28 million refund for customers of Northwest Natural. The amount was agreed to in a stipulation in connection with three property transactions that came under Commission scrutiny.
"Credit goes to our staff who uncovered and unraveled the complicated transactions to recover money that is owed to customers," Commission Chairman Lee Beyer said. "Overall, this is a fair and reasonable outcome for all involved."
The first sale involved the Port Block, a piece of property next to NW Natural’s headquarters in downtown Portland the company had used for employee parking. The company used profits from the sale of the property to offset employee parking costs rather than returning the money to ratepayers.
The second transaction involved NW Natural’s investment in a limited liability company, with whom NW Natural later entered into a parking lease agreement. The Commission allows utilities to recover costs of investments in real property--not limited liability companies.
And the third transaction involved a piece of property known as the Chinese Garden Block. NW Natural leased the property to the city of Portland in 1999 but continued to include a portion of the property taxes in customer rates.
The Commission staff found the transactions while examining NW Natural’s books in its recent general rate case and reported them to the Commission, which directed an audit.
The $1.28 million will be credited to customers through the company’s annual Purchased Gas Adjustment filing. The rates for the adjustment take effect Oct. 1. In addition, $331,000 in parking costs will be eliminated from customer rates through August 31, 2013.
The stipulation resolves all issues related to the three property transactions.