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

April 30 hearing for PacifiCorp rate hike

A public hearing has been set for April 30 before the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) to gather input on a proposed 16.9 percent rate increase by PacifiCorp.

The hearing was published March 28 within a schedule of upcoming events related to the request. This included a Dec. 19 target deadline for a final decision by PUC.

The hearing begins at 6 p.m. and will be held over Zoom. Details including the Zoom link will be published at oregon.gov/puc under “Upcoming Events.”

The proposed change would take effect Jan. 1, 2025, and increase the average residential user’s electric bill by roughly $30 per month, according to an initial filing by PacifiCorp on Feb. 15.

In the filing, PacifiCorp said it needs $304 million in additional annual revenue to cover higher costs for operations, insurance premiums and wildfire planning and management. This includes $77.7 million annually for a new “Catastrophic Fire Fund,” which PacifiCorp said will help cover its losses from wildfires beyond what is recoverable through insurance.

According to PacifiCorp, its current insurance policy covers up to $345 million annually for Oregon wildfires. Last year it saw a $90 million jury verdict over the 2020 Labor Day fires as well as $605 million in legal settlements, and an additional $126.6 million in jury awards so far this year for the fires.

The filing said PacifiCorp plans to raise $3 billion in the fund over 10 years as a buffer to protect itself from credit downgrades and additional debt amid high-dollar wildfire payouts. Fees supporting the fund would be charged to customers based on PacifiCorp’s assessments of wildfire risks in each of the six states where it operates.

Oregon was ranked moderately-high-risk and would support 32.4 percent of the fund, according to the filing. This equates to a monthly catastrophic fire fee of $7.63 for the average residential user, included in the $30 proposed monthly increase.

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