Lower energy costs? PSE customers might see 4 percent cut in natural-gas rates, 1 percent increase for electricity
Puget Sound Energy would bump up electric rates by 1 percent under a settlement reached Friday that also lays out the utility’s financial blueprint for the eventual shutdown of the coal-power complex in Colstrip, Montana.
The agreement sets aside some $380 million in the years ahead to handle the cleanup and closure costs for Colstrip, where PSE has a major ownership share. That money includes $10 million to help Colstrip workers as they transition away from jobs in the coal industry.
The settlement also calls for a roughly 4 percent cut in the natural gas rates charged to PSE customers, and also would boost PSE support for weatherization and customer-bill assistance.
The terms have been submitted for approval to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, which can opt to approve, reject or modify them. The deal results from negotiations between PSE, commission staff, environmental groups, industry groups, the state of Montana and others with a stake in the rate case.
Ken Johnson, PSE’s director of regulatory affairs, said the settlement creates a “workable mechanism” for funding the closure and cleanup at Colstrip. “It ensures future generations will not be burdened by costs resulting from decisions made five decades ago,” he said in a statement released by PSE.
The office of Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson also participated in the negotiations but did not sign on to the agreement. Instead the office will present an “alternative viewpoint” to consider, according to a letter sent to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.
The agreement reflects efforts by PSE, the state’s largest private utility, to transition away from coal.
The fossil fuel is championed by President Donald Trump, who is seeking to boost U.S. production. Coal power plants continue to have strong support in Montana, where they provide family-wage jobs that prop up the community of Colstrip.