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Nader backs publicly-owned PGE

03:07 PM PDT on Monday, October 7, 2002

By ABE ESTIMADA, kgw.com Staff

Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader urged ratepayers in Oregon to form a people's utility district that would allow them to purchase Portland General Electric's assets.

Nader was in Portland Monday to urge Oregonians to back a public utility, which may come up for a vote next spring if consumer advocates collect enough signatures.

When Enron filed for bankruptcy protection following one of the worst business accounting scandals in U.S. history, discussion in the Pacific Northwest rapidly turned on the fate of PGE.

PGE executives say they oppose any move by the city to seize the utility’s assets through eminent domain – an option that Portland is considering.

City commissioners are concerned that PGE will be broken up, despite assurances from utility executives that PGE will be sold as an “integrated unit.”

Consumer interest groups say rate payers would be rewarded with lower power costs if PGE is publicly-owned. A PGE owned by a municipality or people’s utility district would be cheaper because PGE wouldn’t have to turn a profit for shareholders, they say.

PGE serves about 750,000 customers and businesses in Oregon.

Multnomah County commissioners also backed public acquisition of PGE’s assets in September. Multnomah County wants to talk to the city and other counties about a possible purchase of the utility.