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Portland Tribune - Letters to the Editor

Local PUD proves there's life after PGE


I am a journeyman lineman and an employee of the Columbia River People's Utility District in Columbia County, just to Portland's northwest. I have been watching the TV ads that are being paid for by Portland General Electric and Pacific Power -- your suppliers of electricity in Portland and the surrounding counties. I must tell you that all the same fears and lies they are stressing in their ads sound very familiar.

In 1984, I was working as a lineman for PGE when the Columbia River PUD negotiated a fair sales price to purchase the existing system from PGE.

Leading up to the sale, all PGE employees and the public were told that the PUD wouldn't be able to afford to purchase the system PGE had in Columbia County. But Columbia River PUD did negotiate a fair price, paid for the system and still lowered rates to customers.

The very same rhetoric you are hearing now was flying around before the Columbia River PUD election: "They won't have the experience to run an electric utility." "They will have the ability to tax the voters." "They won't have any power supply." Blah, blah, blah.

Guess what? Everything they said turned out to be false.

Another layer of government? Yes, you could call it that, although it's really just customers sitting on a board of directors. But it runs an electric utility the same way you run a private one -- except more efficiently.

The only reason they don't want to lose their little business to "another layer or government" (read: "customer control") is because they will lose their ability to take more money than they need from you to pay their stockholders!

If you vote for the new PUD, you will be the stockholders, and the PUD will pass the savings on to you in the form of lower rates. Columbia River PUD has consistently had lower residential rates than PGE. Currently they are 20 percent less.

"We do this every day." Yeah -- so? Guess what the employees of PGE will be doing after the PUD wins the election and negotiates a fair sales price? They will go to work for the PUD, they will be paid a fair union scale, and they will work for the same union that is opposing this vote.

When we started working for the PUD in 1984, we voted to have IBEW Local 125 represent our operations personnel. Our contract was molded using the current IBEW contract with PGE. Our line crew personnel are as well-off as they were when they were working for PGE, or any other Northwest utility. And our retirement plans are in much better shape than PGE's.

Columbia River PUD's reliability is outstanding; our ability to keep ahead of our customers' needs is more than sufficient; our maintenance is appropriate and our new construction timelines are a pleasant surprise to the builders in our area.

I know this is a time of anxiety for PGE employees. Let me assure you there is life after PGE, and it is good. It has been enjoyable and rewarding working for a PUD. I don't regret making the jump to public power at all.

Rich Voss
Operations supervisor
Columbia River PUD
Kalama, Wash.