The budget compromise agreed upon by the United States House and Senate leadership last week will include funding for the Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP.  The program, which had been targeted for elimination by the Trump administration, provides financial assistance for home energy bills to low-income utility customers.  Under the budget compromise, LIHEAP will receive $3.39 billion in funding for fiscal year 2017. 

“We are pleased that Congress chose to protect a program that helps our most vulnerable customers keep their lights on and their homes heated,” say PUD Commission President Arie Callaghan.  “In the long run, the elimination of LIHEAP funding would have done little to help the federal budget while hurting hundreds of Grays Harbor PUD customers.”

In the last three years, 2741 Grays Harbor PUD customers have benefitted from LIHEAP program dollars, with 986 receiving nearly a half-million in support in 2016 alone. 

Last month, the PUD commissioners passed a resolution supporting LIHEAP and urging Congress to continue its funding.


 

The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have approved a resolution recognizing the value of the clean and reliable power resources available to public utility districts in Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest.   The resolution, passed on Monday afternoon, specifically recognizes the hydro-electric dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers and the nuclear power plant at the Columbia Generating Station in the Tri-Cities.

“We are lucky to have carbon free power,” said PUD Commission President Arie Callaghan.  “In an era when energy producers around the world are searching for ways to generate energy with the lowest emission levels possible, in Washington state we already have those resources at our disposal.”

In Grays Harbor, hydro and nuclear power, purchased through the Bonneville Power Administration, makes up about 90% of the PUD’s portfolio.  While power producers in the state and around the country define that power as clean and renewable, these generating sources have come under fire since the passage of Initiative 937, Washington’s version of the Energy Independence Act, in 2006.  As a result the value of those resources is in danger of being overlooked.

“In Grays Harbor, our mission is quality utility services at the lowest practical cost.  The hydro and nuclear power purchased by the utility are the best resources for that mission,” said Commission Vice President Russ Skolrood.  “Public power costs in the Pacific Northwest are among the lowest in the country.  We have the clean and reliable power from the Columbia and Snake Rivers and the CGS to thank for that.”

In addition to recognizing the value of the carbon free energy provided by the dams and the Columbia Generating Station, the commission’s resolution encourages Washington’s leaders to also recognize that value and to support its continuing contributions.

“Washington state is already a leader in the effort to promote clean, carbon free energy.  We should be proud of that,” said Commission Secretary Dave Timmons. 


 

While recognizing the need to make cuts to spending, the Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have a message for Congress: Don’t balance your budget on the backs of the elderly, low-income and disabled.

On Monday, the Commissioners approved a resolution recognizing the value the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and urging Congress to continue and increase their financial support.  The program, which provides financial assistance for home energy bills to low-income utility customers, has been targeted for elimination in 2018 by the Trump administration.

“It really makes no sense to try to control spending by cutting a program that helps our most vulnerable customers keep their lights on and their homes warm,” said Commission President Arie Callaghan.  “In the long run, LIHEAP spending is just a drop in the bucket of the federal budget, but in Grays Harbor the money and support it provides touches hundreds of lives.”

In the last three years, 2741 Grays Harbor PUD customers have benefitted from LIHEAP program dollars, with 986 receiving nearly a half-million in support in 2016 alone.

“We are talking about a county that is still recovering from the impacts of the 2008 recession and downturn in the logging industry,” said Callaghan.  “Eliminating a program that helps people stay warm is just adding to an already heavy burden.”

In addition to recognizing the value of LIHEAP, the resolution also allows the PUD to add its name to a letter launched by the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition.  The letter urges Congress to protect and increase LIHEAP funding.


 

The Grays Harbor Public Utility District Board of Commissioners have approved a resolution supporting the designation of Tuesday, April 18thas National Lineman Appreciation Day.   First recognized by Congress in 2013, the day celebrates the work of men and women across the country charged with building and maintaining the power system that power our homes and businesses.

The PUD’s 23 linemen are responsible for the maintenance of 1595 miles of distribution line, 223 miles of transmission line and over 30,000 poles.  Teamed with groundsmen, line equipment operators, flaggers, and meter, substation and telecommunications crews, the Grays Harbor linemen have repaired and maintained a system that is one of the most exposed in Washington state.

“I really believe that the 23 linemen employed by the Grays Harbor PUD are the very best in the business,” said Board President Arie Callaghan.  “When you add together the number of storms that pound our county and the huge service area they are responsible for and still come up with the outstanding reliability numbers we see in Grays Harbor that speaks volumes about the work they do for our customers.”


Rate restructure, increase information.pdf

The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners has voted to change the rates for PUD customers which will take effect on April 1, 2017.  Choosing to complete the recommendations from a 2015 cost of service study while acknowledging serious financial facts, the Board voted on Monday to eliminate the two tier residential rate in favor of a flat $0.085 rate.  The utility will not change the system charge which will remain at $39 per month.

The elimination of the tiered system will mean all customers who use the full 360 kWhs previously offered in the first tier will see their PUD bills increase by $11 per month.  The increase of the residential rate from $0.082 to $0.085 will impact all customer bills by $0.30 per 100 kWh used. All other rate schedules will see a 4% rate increase.

The utility will continue to monitor other variables through 2017 which may impact budget numbers including load growth and weather factors.

"Raising rates is the last thing we want to do, but rising power costs, soft surplus sales and existing high cost renewable energy contracts make this a necessary step.  Our mission is to provide high value utility services at the lowest practical cost.  Given the financial realities we are facing, this is the lowest practical cost we can accept without seriously impacting the service, safety and reliability we owe to our customers," said General Manager Dave Ward.

"We share and understand the frustration our customers are feeling at the prospect of higher rates but to delay the needed changes would only increase the cost to the utility and its customers," said Commission President Arie Callaghan.  "'This restructure and increase are driven by financial facts which we are happy to share with any customer who wishes to learn about the realities the Grays Harbor PUD is facing." 

The restructure completes the steps recommended by a cost of service study performed for the PUD in 2015.  The commissioners chose to partially implement the restructure in 2016 to lessen the immediate impact.  However, increasing rates from the Bonneville Power Administration continued weakening of the surplus power market and the rising cost of voter mandated renewable energy purchases made it impossible for the PUD to put off the increase any longer.  

"To maintain the current rate structure would mean a larger increase.  To use credit to pay the bill would simply postpone and increase the final cost.  If we act now, we set the utility on stable ground," said Ward. 

"There is light at the end of the tunnel," said Callaghan.  "Expensive contracts will expire in the next five years, meaning the utility will have more revenue to put into the system and to pay down debt.  By taking action now, we are helping to make sure the utility is stable and ready to move forward."



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