Spending on Klamath QuestionedThompson, Berg and Wiggins ask the California PUC to consider Ratepayer Petition
Ratepayer Press Release
September 9, 2008
Some Californians who get their electricity from Portland-based PacifiCorp want the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to review PacifiCorp's spending on its Klamath River dams. The PacifiCorp Ratepayers for the Klamath River asked the California PUC to provide an expert, independent assessment of what is best for the ratepayers.
In separate recent letters to the California PUC, Northcoast Congressman Mike Thomson, State Senator Patricia Wiggins and State Assemblyperson Patty Berg asked the PUC to take a serious look at the petition.
The petition was filed in July; the PacifiCorp customers who filed it have not yet received a response from the Commission. The three Northcoast representatives sent their letters in August.
Customers are called "ratepayers" in utilities parlance. The ratepayers say they fear that PacifiCorp has already spent too much money (about $50 million) on the antiquated dams, and that it may be in the ratepayers' best interest for the dams to come out.
"We are thrilled that Mike Thompson, Pat Wiggins and Patty Berg support our efforts to get the California PUC involved" said ratepayer Susan Botts. "PacifiCorp speaks often about protecting the ratepayers but we can't see how what they are doing is at all in our interest."
Botts and her family live on the Yurok Reservation near the mouth of the Klamath River. Botts says that she signed the petition because she has become convinced by a number of recent studies that it will be cheaper to remove the dams than to heap their mounting costs on PacifiCorp's customers.
The people who signed the petition to the California PUC live in Del Norte County and in Siskiyou County in Northern California.
Because of the toxic algae, nutrients and other pollution that the dams produce and release into the river, the petitioners say that the Klamath Hydroelectric dams represent a human health risk and a huge financial and legal liability that should not fall on ratepayers, many of whom have only modest incomes. "If PacifiCorp insists on spending recklessly trying to re-license the Klamath Hydroelectric Project, then PacifiCorp should be the ones financially and legally on the hook – not us." Botts said.
Felice Pace, another petitioner who authors a blog on Klamath River issues, thinks PacifiCorp's dams cannot be legally relicensed. "The dams currently violate water quality standards for the Klamath River," said Pace. "They receive water from the Upper Basin that contains agricultural pollution. Because the dams make that poor water quality much worse, extensive water quality treatment would be needed to legally operate the dams." According to Pace, who holds a university degree in economics, the cost of water treatment would be prohibitive given the amount of power the dams actually produce. "Keeping the dams would require big rate increases for PacifiCorp's customers," said Pace.
In recent years fish kills have occurred regularly in the Klamath River below the dams and in the reservoirs as well. Scientists believe these fish kills are related to poor water quality.
PacifiCorp has been claiming for some time that the company's only agenda is to protect the interests of their ratepayers. Botts, Pace and the other petitioners think the company's behavior is more geared toward getting the ratepayers to pay for everything.
The California Public Utilities Commission has a responsibility to protect the ratepayer's interest. "That's why we'd like to see the California PUC get involved," said Susan Botts. "We don't see where anyone else involved is looking out for our interests."
Portland-based PacifiCorp is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Investment Company.
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