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News Release
OPUC Seeks Appeals Court OK To Examine
Staff-U S WEST Agreement On U S WEST Rate Case

September 16, 1999 (1999-039)
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Ron Karten, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR – The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) today decided to ask the Oregon Court of Appeals to put on hold the appeals of a 1997 rate case so it could consider a stipulation between OPUC staff and U S WEST that would settle the case and provide more than $200 million in customer refunds.
The Commission said it will not consider the merits of the stipulation until the Court of Appeals has issued an order authorizing the Commission to conduct such a hearing.
In the 1997 rate case decision, the Commission ordered U S WEST to refund $102 million to customers and to reduce the revenue required to serve customers by $97 million a year. The stipulation, signed last week, provides for an annual refund of $53 million plus interest covering a period from May 1, 1996 until the stipulation is implemented, and a $63 million annual revenue reduction.
Because the refund obligation has been growing with time and interest, total refunds as of December, 1999 will amount to $222.7 million.
The Citizens’ Utility Board and the American Association of Retired Persons are also parties to the appeal but have not signed the stipulation.
Despite not having all parties in agreement, the Commission decided it should consider the stipulation because of the length of time it may take to resolve the issue in court and because of new requirements in telecommunications legislation passed in the 1999 legislative session.
"Appeals of this case have already taken over two years and we don’t know when we’ll get a final decision," Commission Chairman Ron Eachus said. "The stipulation deserves examination to see if it results in a just and reasonable outcome. For example, does it still maintain the rate adjustment for poor service quality that was in our original decision?"
After meeting in executive session with its legal advisors, the Commission decided to ask the Appellate Division of the Attorney General’s office to file a motion with the court to put on hold all proceedings in the appeals to allow the Commission to take evidence on the stipulation and determine the advisability of adopting it.
If approved by the Commission and if paid by December, the proposed agreement will provide residential customers of U S WEST one-time, per line credits of $101.77 and business customers one-time, per line credits of either $244.26 or $274.79 depending on how complex the telephone service is. The credits will be larger if disbursements are delayed. In addition, the proposed agreement will provide cash refunds to long distance carriers amounting to $30.8 million if paid by December.
The proposed agreement also calls for rate reductions worth $63 million going forward. It will provide residential customers reductions of $2.47/month, and business customers reductions of either $5.93/ or $6.68/month depending on business classification. Customers will receive these rate reductions until the Commission completes the rate design phase and determines permanent rates to be paid by each customer class.
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