October 31, 2003
Clackamas and Washington County PUD
A PUD election in each county served by PGE
Multnomah County will cast their ballots to decide whether to form a county Peoples’ Utility District in the November 4 election. Yamhill County will vote on PUD formation in March 2004.
Today, Clackamas County and Washington County PUD supporters, affiliated with the Oregon Public Power Coalition, announced that they have the signatures needed to call for PUD elections in each of the two counties.
Volunteers with Clackamas Public Power have collected over 4700 signatures, significantly more than the 3870 signatures required . Washington County volunteers have collected more than 4800 signatures to satisfy the need for 4400 valid signatures to hold a PUD election there.
Marion-Polk volunteers are still in the process of collecting signatures and should submit signatures in early 2004.
Selecting an election date
Signatures will be filed with county elections officers on November 28, the day after Thanksgiving. Due to statutorily determined timeframes for the process of validating signatures, holding hearings and placing the PUD questions on the ballot, this submission date will result in placement on the May 2004 primary ballot. This election will have a greater chance of reaching the 50% turnout needed to pass the PUD levy question than either the March or September ballots. The levies will ask for a one-time fee of $0.25-0.75 from most homeowners to fund an engineer’s report, which will determine the value of PGE assets, investigate the most efficient method of system changeover, and gauge the savings a PUD would be able to offer ratepayers.
The importance of forming PUD’s
Portland General electric charges the highest rates of any sizable utility in Oregon [link]. It continues to collect over $90 million each year from ratepayers for state and federal income tax that goes instead into Enron’s coffers [link]. Enron’s bankruptcy will likely lead to the sale of PGE’s most profitable assets to unregulated owners, a step that would lead to even higher rates [link 1] [link 2].
PUD’s can protect us from the fallout from Enron’s bankruptcy and can likely offer substantially lower rates to both residents and businesses. This would be good for the area’s families and good for our economy.
The risk of forming PUD’s is almost zero. $0.25-0.75 per household is trivial compared to what we spend for electricity. The PUD board of directors must be able to demonstrate the economic advantage of taking over PGE before the voters approve the sale of revenue bonds used to purchase the utility.
"Electricity rates immediately dropped for PGE customers once they became Columbia River PUD customers. Residential customers who had been paying $60.10 a month to PGE for 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity began paying $52.50 a month."
Pilon [general manager of Columbia River PUD] said PGE needlessly scared people in 1999, sounding alarms about the possibility of skyrocketing rates and power system failures that did not turn out to be true. Now, he said, PGE and PacifiCorp are doing it again
"The same garbage that PGE people are pumping now, PGE was pumping out then," Pilon said.
— The Oregonian, in an article on 10/19/2003 describing what happened when voters approved the annexation of electricity customers in Scappoose, St. Helens and Columbia City to the Columbia River PUD from PGE. [link]
"Because they are locally controlled, People's Utility Districts are more accessible and responsive to their customers' needs. They are a "not-for-profit" entity, whose cost savings are passed directly to their customers.
The Board of Directors sets rates based upon the cost of providing service. The PUD's power supply is generally provided by BPA at rates that are less than any of Oregon's private utility rates. The PUD passes these lower rates on to customers. The Board is also responsible for hiring professional managers and staff to operate the utility."
— Oregon PUD Association, as stated on their Web site.