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UNCERTAINTY REIGNS IN WEST AMID ENERGY CRISIS

When the lights go out in California, it captures the attention of the entire West.

Policy wonks and homeowners alike question whether there is sufficient energy available in this region, and some query whether wholesalers that have sold power to California utilities will be paid.

Uncertainty reigns in utility markets these days, and against this turbulent backdrop PacifiCorp is asking Utah utility regulators for a $95 million rate increase. Ouch.

This doesn't come as happy news to Utah consumers, who already are reeling from a 29 percent increase in natural gas rates approved on an interim basis by the Public Service Commission.

PacifiCorp is seeking the rate increase to offset the higher cost of wholesale electricity purchases. Few would debate the utility's need for more cash to buy wholesale power, but there is debate over the amount it really needs.

This page isn't in a position to support one dollar amount over another, given that financial information is discussed behind closed doors. But we believe the Public Service Commission should order that any rate increase granted be applied directly to energy usage and that the burden be shared among all customers. . . .

At the same time, utilities are under increasing pressure to plan so as to avert a California-like energy crisis. Ratepayers and investors will, ultimately, pay for that expansion. . . .

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