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Avista loses bid to have 2016 rate hikes reconsidered by state regulators

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 27, 2017

Avista has lost another round in its latest attempt to raise electric and natural gas rates.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which previously rejected the utility’s proposed increases, on Monday denied a request by Avista Utilities to reconsider.

Spokane-based Avista had not shown that the commission “failed to consider the relevant evidence or committed any error of law,” the commission said.

Avista has 30 days to petition the Superior Court for judicial review of the commission’s decision.

As an alternative to litigation, the UTC said it is open to “Avista filing a well-developed proposal that parties can use as a spring-board and procedural vehicle to provide an opportunity for settlement negotiations … by which prospective revenue requirements and rates can be set.”

Casey Fielder, an Avista communications manager, said in a statement Monday, “We were disappointed with the Commission’s decision in our 2016 general rate case. We’ve just received the most recent order and are currently reviewing.”

Avista filed its proposed rate case on Feb. 19, 2016, requesting an 18-month rate plan. The company proposed an increase of $38.6 million, or 7.8 percent, in electric rates and $4.4 million, or 5 percent, in natural gas rates for the first 12 months. For the final six months, the company requested an additional $10.3 million, or 3.9 percent, increase in electric rates, and $900,000, or 1.8 percent, increase in natural gas rates.

The UTC, the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned utilities in Washington, rejected the rate request in a 2-to-1 vote on Dec. 15, 2016. Chairman David Danner and Commissioner Ann Rendahl voted against the proposal, while Commissioner Phil Jones filed a dissenting opinion. The three voted the same way on Avista’s request for reconsideration.

The UTC staff, the public counsel unit of the Attorney General’s Office, Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, and Northwest Industrial Gas Users filed comments opposing the company’s petition for reconsideration.

Avista serves more than 237,000 electric and nearly 149,000 natural gas customers in Washington.

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