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PUD Might Lower Prices

by Lukas Velush, Herald Writer
The Herald, August 18, 2005

Two utility commissioners ask the general manager
to find a way to decrease power rates.

EVERETT - Snohomish County PUD electricity rates finally may be coming down. Two of the three commissioners who run the public utility have asked General Manager Ed Hansen to try to find a way to lower rates as he puts together the PUD's 2006 budget.

"It's incumbent upon ourselves to see if we can find a little money to return to the customers," Commissioner Toni Olson said.

She seconded a motion made by Commissioner Kathy Vaughn at a recent commission meeting. Commissioner Dave Aldrich was not at the meeting.

"It's premature to make any decisions about lowering rates," Aldrich said Wednesday. "We still have to do a major analysis and think about the best use of dollars. If the numbers are there, I'd love to be able to reduce rates."

Hansen said he couldn't make any promises, but added, "We'll go back and roll up our sleeves and see what we can do."

The PUD staff has presented a rough draft of the budget to the commission. The budget represents the first time in three years the PUD has started drawing up its annual budget without wrangling over a deficit.

The preliminary budget is $660 million, the same amount the PUD expects to generate in revenue in 2006. In 2004, the utility started out the budget process $13 million in the hole, and in 2003 started with a $9 million shortfall.

Hansen would not say whether, since the budget must be balanced, that means he can fulfill the request to lower rates.

"We still have the question about what Bonneville's rates will be," Hansen said, referring to the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal power wholesaler that the utility buys most of its power from.

BPA has not said whether it plans to lower rates.

Hansen said he expects to know more in early October, when he will present his budget to the commission.

The PUD's 300,000 customers have struggled to pay rates that went up by half during the 2000-01 West Coast energy crisis. Disconnections and requests for helping to pay overdue bills have been at record levels since the crisis.

Lukas Velush, Herald Writer
PUD Might Lower Prices
The Herald, August 18, 2005

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