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Commentaries and editorials

Oregon, Washington Ask
for Rehearing on Power Benefits Ruling

by Associated Press
The Oregonian, July 20, 2007

PORTLAND, Ore. - Utility regulators in Oregon and Washington state said Friday they have asked a federal appeals court for a rehearing on a ruling that led the Bonneville Power Administration to suspend a subsidy known as the "residential exchange" program, driving up electricity rates for private utility customers across the Northwest.

The request to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco asks for a hearing by a larger panel of judges after a three-judge panel ruled May 3 that Bonneville had overstepped its authority with the subsidy to reduce electricity rates for residential and small farm customers of the privately owned utilities.

The residential exchange program was established by Congress with the Northwest Power Act in 1980.

It allows private utilities to swap higher-cost power they generate for lower-cost hydropower generated by Bonneville, the federal power marketing agency based in Portland that oversees hydroelectric production at 31 dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

But the exchange typically has been a financial payment, not an actual power exchange, and customers of the private utilities see it as a credit on their monthly bills.

The exchange has long been a divisive issue between the large, investor-owned private utilities - including Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, Avista and Puget Sound Energy - and the rest of the nearly 140 utilities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, most of them public utilities.

It also has divided states over BPA power because Oregon is dominated by private utilities while Washington state is served mostly by public utilities.

The appeals court has no set deadline to respond to such requests, known as "en banc" hearings.

Associated Press
Oregon, Washington Ask for Rehearing on Power Benefits Ruling
The Oregonian, July 20, 2007

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