The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission’s (UTC) regulatory staff reached agreement with Avista Utilities on Friday regarding the Spokane, WA-based utility’s proposed increase in retail natural gas and power rates. The three-member UTC still has to review and approve the deal.

State regulatory officials will hold a series of three public hearings on the proposed settlement Nov. 8-9. In addition to the UTC staff’s agreement, Avista had four other stakeholders sign the deal: the Northwest Industrial Gas Users, Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, The Energy Project, and the public counsel section of the Washington state attorney general’s office.

Separately, the Northwest Energy Coalition indicated that it did not sign the rate agreement, but would not oppose the settlement. Part of the settlement would prevent Avista from filing a general rate case before April 1.

Under the settlement, Avista would increase its annual retail gas utility revenues by $3.75 million, or 2.4%, compared with the original utility request of $6.2 million, or 4%. Electric revenues should increase by $20 million, or 4.6%, compared with Avista’s original request of $38.3 million, or 9.1%. Avista made its rate case filing in May (see Daily GPI, May 20).

Typical residential gas customers will see a monthly increase of slightly less than $2; customers will pay about $3 more each month for electricity.

State regulatory commission staff said the settlement was carved out in a generally hostile environment toward any utility rate hikes. Since Avista’s proposal in May, 289 public comments have been received by the UTC, and 276 expressed opposition to the utility’s filing. Three of the public comments supported the Avista request.

Avista serves 147,000 natural gas utility customers and 234,000 electric customers in Washington state.

©Copyright 2011Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.