ashland.news
July 23, 2024

Avista will have smaller rate increases, can’t use customer money for lawsuit under settlement

An Avista gas meter serving an Ashland household. Ashland.news photo by Bert Etling
October 27, 2023

Climate groups challenged rate proposals before the Oregon Public Utility Commission

By Julia Shumway, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon’s second largest natural gas utility won’t be able to charge customers to pay for its political and lobbying activities and will have to decrease its proposed 2024 rate increase under a settlement agreement approved Thursday by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

The commission’s order follows a tentative August settlement between Avista and climate groups including the Sierra Club, Climate Solutions and Earthjustice. Avista has 105,000 customers in Oregon, and their rates have increased 18% since November 2022.

Now, the company will be limited to a 4.7% increase in 2024, down from the 8% the company proposed. The settlement also blocks Avista from charging customers to pay for the company’s membership dues for gas industry associations and its ongoing lawsuit against the Climate Protection Program, the state rules that require gas companies and major industrial facilities to progressively cut greenhouse gas emissions. Avista wanted $57,000 to pay for its lawsuit and $90,000 for dues to the American Gas Association and NW Gas Association. 

Environmental groups and the Earthjustice attorneys who challenged Avista praised the settlement. 

“This is a big win for working Oregonians who will no longer have to pay for fossil fuel subsidies or political activities that prolong dependence on harmful methane gas,” said Jan Hasselman, senior attorney for Earthjustice. “This settlement supports Avista’s transition to clean energy and propels Oregon forward on the path to electrification.” 

The settlement also requires Avista to phase out a process of charging existing customers to pay for the cost of adding new gas lines. That means a lower upfront cost for new customers, but that all customers will pay higher rates than they would have otherwise. Avista has charged ratepayers more than $42,000 to connect a single house to gas utility services, according to a review by the Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board. 

The agreement further requires Avista to consider whether it can meet increased demand without expanding gas pipelines. An effort to ban natural gas from all new construction in Eugene faltered this summer,  but Ashland is moving ahead with plans to require all-electric homes

While cutting Avista’s budgets for legal and political activities, the settlement required the company to increase its budget for low-income home weatherization from $800,000 to $2 million. The company helps pay for insulation, duct sealing and other tools to keep older homes warm, reducing the amount of energy used. 

An Avista spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond Thursday. In August, a company spokeswoman described the tentative agreement as a “balanced and constructive outcome.”

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix, Arizona.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

Related Posts...

Latest posts

Obituary: Steven Maryanoff

Obituary: Steven Roy Maryanoff, beloved brother to Bruce Eliot Maryanoff and friend to many people around Ashland, passed away peacefully on June 18 at the age of 75 in his private home in Ashland. He was active in the Buddhist community in and around Ashland.

Read More >

Explore More...

Shakespeare’s "Coriolanus" hits the stage Tuesday at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Directed by Rosa Joshi, the play tells the story of a powerful yet starving population and a war hero turned politician.
Childcare providers have until Friday, July 26, to submit applications for Early Childhood Affordability Grant Program grants, according to an announcement by the city on Monday, July 22. The application period opened July 12, the release said.
A master plan tailor-made to guide the city of Ashland’s approach to homelessness was unanimously approved Thursday evening by the final committee standing between the plan and a review from Ashland City Council. A review of the master plan is scheduled for the Aug. 5 council study session. 
John Marciano: Violence at home and abroad is not antithetical to America, it has been its very nature since the founding.
Volunteers gathered Sunday morning in Railroad Park to make repairs to the Say Their Names memorial T-shirts along the fence by the park. it was the third or fourth Sunday in a row volunteers came to the park to slowly recreate the memorial for its fifth iteration.
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)

Don't Miss Our Top Stories

Get our newsletter delivered to your inbox three times a week.
It’s FREE and you can cancel anytime.