WA Governor asks regulators for relief from energy prices

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Governor asks regulators for relief from energy prices December 14, 2000, 12:45 PM OLYMPIA Washington Governor Gary Locke urged the federal government Thursday to cap the price of wholesale power, as plants were shut down and residential electricity bills were going through the roof.

REPORTED BY Scott Miller Over the last couple of weeks, plants have shut down, leaving people out of work, and residential electricity rates were soaring. Locke said its a crisis that has to stop.

This situation cannot continue as is. Without action to bring wholesale power costs down to fair and reasonable levels, the prosperity that weve worked so hard to achieve in the past decade can be undermined in just a matter of weeks, if not months, he said.

The federal government has already intervened in California, where some utilities are on the verge of bankruptcy. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson ordered the Bonneville Power Administration Wednesday to spill water over Columbia River dams, and send the power south, at a reasonable price.

I am sure that the generators receive a fair return, Richardson said. I will not allow them to unjustly profit from the current market conditions. I will demand a fair price.

Locke also urged Kaiser Aluminum Corporation to pay its workers 100 percent of their regular wages during a 10-month shutdown.

Kaiser decided earlier this week to idle its Spokane-area plant because it can make more money by selling its federally-subsidized, cheap electricity. The company has said it will pay full benefits and up to 70 percent of wages to workers during the shutdown.

Locke spoke with Kaiser President Ray Milchovich Thursday, urging him to reconsider. The governor also wants Kaiser to return some of its power to the BPA.

Milchovich agreed to discuss the issue further, Locke said.

Bon star to shine again In the meantime, a popular holiday decoration turned off during the energy crunch is coming back on. The Bon Marche in downtown Seattle will relight its popular holiday star on Friday at 5 p.m.

The star was turned off Monday, after Gov. Locke urged businesses and residents to conserve power. Locke lifted the restrictions on Tuesday.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), December 14, 2000

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