Signed into Law by Gov Brown on 05-24-21
Status (overview) of bill:https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2021R1/Measures/Overview/HB2475
This bill imposes on public utilities another set of social inequities criteria to consider when setting rates. Allows the PUC to consider differential energy burden and other inequities of affordability in rates, and authorize the PUC to enter into agreements to provide financial assistance, limited to $500,000 annually, for organizations to represent interests of low-income residential customers and residential customers who are members of environmental justice communities in regulatory proceedings before the PUC.
Personal Choice and Responsibility
Customers “choose” the utility companies only by choosing where they live or set up shop. Customers “choose” how much they will pay the utilities by controlling how much product or service they consume. Utilities set rates according to their costs so that all customers share equally according to their usage. Specifying and/or limiting the sources from which utilities may acquire the energy products they provide their customers serves only to drive up costs for all the customers. Allows adding additional criteria not related to these costs to factor when setting rates benefits. This process creates an unequal rating system – redistribution of wealth.
Limits the total aggregate financial assistance available to organizations representing interests of low-income residential customers or residential customers that are members of environmental justice communities to $500,000 annually. Allows more than one public utility or organization to join in a single agreement. Directs the PUC to establish a process for evaluating and approving agreements with organizations representing interests of low-income residential customers or residential customers that are members of environmental justice communities.
Because energy utilities operate largely as monopolies with license from government, the people created the Public Utility Commission to stem the worst of those tendencies on behalf of the utilities’ customers. Utilities must justify to the PUC any change in the rates they charge for their products and services. HB 2475A directs PUC to mitigate energy burden through bill reduction programs and spread the cost to ratepayers. This is another bite off of what PUC was created to do and the legislature is overreaching unnecessary and violates this principle.
Forces utilities to consider “environmental justice factors that affect affordability for certain classes of utility customers” when setting rates could be construed to limit the sources from which utilities may purchase energy. It is in the best interests of utilities to avoid focusing on particular groups, however defined, unless such group comprises the entirety of a service area.
EXPLANATION OF VOTE: