Puget Sound Energy (PSE) late Friday announced it has reached an all-party $179.4 million settlement in its ongoing general rate case proceeding at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), which will review the deal before making its final decision on the case covering the utility’s retail natural gas and electricity charges. A settlement stipulation was filed Friday with the UTC by the Bellevue, WA-based Puget Energy utility.

PSE is requesting that the state regulators review the overall settlement and the outstanding issue on a power cost rate mechanism during hearings already scheduled to begin Sept. 2 in the case. PSE originally filed last Dec. 3 for a $231 million general rate increase (see Daily GPI, Dec. 6, 2007). PSE sought a $174.5 million, or 9.5%, boost in electric rates, and a $56.8 million, or 5.31%, increase in natural gas rates.

In the settlement, PSE would get an added $179.4 million in added revenues, or increases of 7.1% for electricity ($130.2 million) and 4.6% ($49.2 million) for natural gas.

The parties signing onto the settlement include all the utility’s major stakeholders: UTC regulatory staff; the Public Counsel Section in the state attorney general’s office; Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities; Northwest Industrial Gas Users; Seattle Steam Co.; the Energy Project; The Kroger Co.; the Federal Executive Agencies; and Nucor Steel Seattle Inc.

“The revenues that would be provided by this settlement solely relate to recovering costs and providing financial resources that PSE needs to ensure safe and reliable service to a growing region,” said Eric Markell, PSE CFO. “No costs related to the proposed merger between PSE’s parent company, Puget Energy, and Puget Holdings LLC, a consortium of long-term infrastructure investors, are part of this settlement.”

PSE asked for the new rates to be effective Nov. 1, with typical household electric bills going up 8.25% or $7.65/month. A typical natural gas retail bill would go up about 5%, or $4.15/month, sending the collective average residential combined bills to slightly more than $100, the utility said.

PSE said more than half of the settlement agreed-to revenue increase equals about $74 million of additional electric revenue for recouping power-related expenses, and the rest would cover costs of capital, along with operating/maintenance of the electricity system. The bulk of the natural gas revenues can be tied to recovering costs for infrastructure investments to improve system reliability and serve added customers.

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