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News Release
Avista Natural Gas Rate Hike Meets PUC Commission Approval
January 23, 2001 (2001-004)
Contacts: Ron Eachus, Chairman, 503 378-6611; Roger Hamilton, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Joan H. Smith, Commissioner, 503 378-6611; Bob Valdez, Public Information Officer, 503 378-8962
Salem, OR - Avista customers in southern and eastern Oregon won't be paying rates lower than other natural gas customers in Oregon anymore under a 29.4 percent general rate hike approved today by the Oregon Public Utility Commission. The new rates take effect January 24, 2001.
The monthly bill of a typical residential customer using 60 therms a month will increase by $13.41, or approximately 30 percent. The increase for industrial customers is 35.5 percent.
The company will not receive any additional profit because it is essentially a pass-through of the cost of natural gas on the wholesale market from which the company must buy its supplies.
"We didn't take this lightly," Commission Chairman Ron Eachus said. "Our staff conducted an extensive analysis to determine the merit of the request and found the company's filing was an accurate representation of rising wholesale gas costs over which they have little control."
October 1, 2000 the company raised residential rates by 21 percent following a required annual review of energy costs. However, the company is allowed further adjustments if its cost of gas change by 10 percent or more.
In December Avista submitted a request to increase rates by 34.75 percent. The company later withdrew the request and replaced it with a revised filing seeking a 29 percent increase.
Historically, Avista's rates have been lower than the other Oregon natural gas utilities. This hike would increase Avista's residential rate for 60 therms of usage to $58.82. This compares with $54.55 for NW Natural and $54.50 for Cascade. This is the first time since 1988 Avista's prices have been higher.
Since Avista made its energy cost projection last October wholesale costs spiked due in part to increased demand from cold weather. Other contributing factors include the increased use of gas-fired electric generating plants, strong demand in the Midwest and South and flat production due to previously low wholesale prices.
The Commission praised the company for offering several programs to minimize the impact or rate hikes on its customers. They include a Comfort Level Billing Plan that is designed to average out the monthly payments. Avista also allows time payment agreements on past due bills and continues to promote its Project Share program that provides emergency heat assistance for families throughout its territory.
Avista serves approximately 79,000 customers in southern and parts of eastern Oregon.
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