Avista Utilities should cut electricity rates for Washington customers next year, the staff of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission said Tuesday.
The commissioners will have the final say this fall after they weigh their staff’s recommendation of a 1.7 percent rate reduction against Avista’s request to raise rates by 3.8 percent. The new rate will take effect in January.
Commission staff recommended that Avista be allowed to raise natural gas revenue by 4.8 percent rather than the company’s requested increase of 8.1 percent. The staff also recommended that Avista be allowed to raise basic service charges for both electricity and natural gas.
Those recommendations would result in Avista earning a 6.77 percent overall rate of return versus the company’s requested 7.68 percent rate of return.
State regulators will take comment from Avista customers during two public hearings: at 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 in the Spokane City Council chambers, and at noon on Aug. 27 in the Spokane Valley City Council chambers.
Sacred Heart to begin cardiac unit remodel
Construction crews Monday will begin a $19.2 million remodel of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center’s cardiac intensive care unit.
The project will add 12 beds to the unit, bringing the total to 34, according to hospital spokesman Joe Robb. It’s the first significant upgrade of the CICU in more than 15 years.
The project will unfold in two phases, including building new space and remodeling the existing unit.
Patient care and services will not be disrupted during construction, which is expected to be completed in 2016, Robb said. The project cost includes equipment upgrades and retooling of workstations, plus a courtyard and private space for families.
Energy efficiency award goes to Stimson Lumber
Stimson Lumber Co. of St. Maries was recognized by the state Monday for making strides in energy efficiency.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter presented the company the Award for Excellence in Industrial Energy Efficiency. The award recognizes industrial companies that are exceptional state leaders in implementing energy efficiency.
Stimson last year completed a chip-conveyer system conversion, made upgrades to its waste management system and retrofitted the lighting at its St. Maries plant. These retrofits reduced electricity use by over 980,000 kilowatt-hours and made for a safer, more efficient workplace, the state said in a news release.
Home sales increase 2.6 percent in June
WASHINGTON – Sales of previously owned homes rose for a third straight month in June, pushing activity to the highest level in eight months and providing evidence that housing is regaining lost momentum.
The National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes increased 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million homes. It marked the first time that sales have been above the 5 million mark since October.
Even with the three months of increases, sales are 2.3 percent below the pace in June 2013.
China meat scandal hits Starbucks, Burger King
BEIJING – A suspect meat scandal in China engulfed Starbucks and Burger King on Tuesday and spread to Japan where McDonald’s said the Chinese supplier accused of selling expired beef and chicken had provided 20 percent of the meat for its chicken nuggets.
Starbucks Corp. on Tuesday said it removed from its shelves sandwiches made with chicken that originated at Husi. Burger King Corp. said it stopped using hamburger from a supplier that used product from Husi.