Ericksen asks UTC to reverse decision aimed at forcing early exit from Montana coal plant

  • Regulators target Washington utilities served by Colstrip Generating Plant 
  • Premature abandonment would drive up costs for Washington consumers
  • Commission lacks authority to order new accounting scheme

Click here to read Sen. Ericksen’s letter to UTC

OLYMPIA – State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, is asking state regulators to reverse a decision that would force electric utilities to include “climate change damages” in calculating the cost of coal-plant operations.

The decision by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission aims to pressure three Washington-state utilities to abandon their investment in a major Montana coal plant by artificially increasing cost calculations, Ericksen says. In a sharply-worded letter to the commission, Ericksen notes that the Legislature considered and rejected a similar proposal during the 2018 legislative session (SB 6424 and HB 2839), leaving the commission with no clear authority to order the new accounting scheme.

“I am deeply disappointed with the commission’s recent decisions directing utilities to inflate the price of electricity that will be delivered to Washington consumers,” Ericksen writes. “I believe your decisions in the integrated resource planning process exceed the scope of the commission’s authority and cast doubt on your credibility as a neutral and non-political regulator.”

The commission’s decision is aimed at three Washington investor-owned utilities, Puget Sound Energy, Avista Corp. and Pacific Power. The three utilities own a stake in Montana’s Colstrip Generating Plant and use its power to serve nearly 1.5 million customers. At least 10 years of useful life remain in Colstrip Plants 3 and 4, the newest and largest portions of the plant.

“Washington regulators are trying to force an early exit from Colstrip – a political decision that is not theirs to make,” Ericksen said. “Legislators recognize premature abandonment of the plant would drive up costs for Washington consumers, and they have sensibly said no to accounting schemes like this one. But regulators don’t have to answer to the public, and they are free to ignore the impact of their decisions on Washington’s working families and the industries that employ them.

“Forcing utilities to artificially inflate their cost calculations sets Washington up for dramatically higher electricity prices. Regulators are going out on a limb to do it, and they have nothing to support them.”