A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Pacific to Millersburg: It won’t work

Written December 11th, 2013 by Hasso Hering
The Millersburg City Hall, where a weighty power issue is being considered.

The Millersburg City Hall, where a weighty power issue is being considered.

Millersburg is contemplating taking over the electric power system within its boundaries in order to allow Wah Chang, the metals plant, to benefit from low-cost preference power sold by the Bonneville Power Administration. Pacific Power has now warned the city council that in the company’s opinion this won’t work.

Doris Johnston, regional community manager for Pacific, made two points to the Millersburg council on Tuesday (Dec. 10):

First, the Northwest Power Act of 1980 does not allow Wah Chang to get preference power this way. According to Pacific, the act “restricts customers with loads of 10 megawatts or greater who are ‘contracted for and committed to’ customers of an investor-owned utility prior to 1979 from getting power at BPA’s lowest preference rate,” Johnston told the council. “This is to prevent exactly the kind of ‘end run’ tactics Wah Chang is currently using here in Millersburg.”

And second, she said, in the only two public power takeovers in the Northwest in the last 20 years (in Jefferson County, Wash, and Hermiston), the takeover cost proved to be more than twice the amount estimated by consultants — the same consultants working on the Millersburg issue.

The actual cost would not be known until after the condemnation takes place. If it comes to an election — and a big step like expropriating private property should not be taken without one — the question is whether Millersburg’s voters (933 of them as of now) want to risk incurring such an unknown cost. (hh)

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