News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

PGE, others intervene in PacifiCorp proposal

Portland General Electric (PGE) and a pair of climate action advocates have joined the list of intervenors in a regulatory proposal that could limit customer lawsuits against PacifiCorp.

PGE was granted intervenor status Jan. 23 after petitioning the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) on Jan. 10.

Then the Green Energy Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland and Sierra Club were granted intervenor status Jan. 30 after filing a joint petition Jan. 18.

This brings the list of intervenors to nine groups or businesses, all of whom may directly participate in the consideration of PacifiCorp’s request. Petitioners have until Feb. 20 to file opening briefs detailing their positions on the proposal.

On Oct. 24, 2023, PacifiCorp asked PUC for permission to add a limited liability clause to its customer application for electrical service. The clause would only allow customers to seek economic damages and only for losses caused by the use of electrical services.

Customers currently suing the company in James et al vs. PacifiCorp over the 2020 Labor Day fires claim the proposal could significantly limit their ability to collect damages. The class of plaintiffs petitioned for intervenor status Dec. 18, 2023.

PacifiCorp denied James plaintiffs had cause for concern and opposed the petition.

Administrative Law Judge Katharine Mapes said PacifiCorp’s proposal left open the possibility of harm to the James class and granted them intervenor status Jan. 12.

In PGE’s petition the company said it has “special knowledge or expertise” as an electric utility to assist PUC, and that the outcome of proceedings may directly impact its operations. Mapes approved the petition without opinion.

PGE has drawn a contrast between itself and PacifiCorp since the 2020 fires, multiple of which PacifiCorp has been found liable for causing amid high heat and wind conditions. 

According to proceedings in James, PGE voluntarily deenergized its system during the storm to prevent fires, while PacifiCorp refused even after being pressed by Gov. Kate Brown’s office.

In their joint petition, Green Energy Institute and Sierra Club said their shared goal was to mitigate climate change through sustainable electrical infrastructure and regulation. They said PacifiCorp’s request could change the way electric utilities work to prevent wildfires and how they can be held accountable when they cause disasters.

Mapes also approved their petition without opinion.

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