State Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr. met with representatives of Pacific Power this week to discuss complaints over high electricity bills received by customers throughout the region, with the meeting occurring before a scheduled protest Saturday at a Pacific Power location in Grants Pass.
Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass, released a statement Thursday related to his meeting with Pacific Power.
"I am concerned about what I am hearing from my district, and I asked for an explanation and a commitment from Pacific Power to address this issue," he said. "The company has reassured me that they are working to avoid new cost increases."
Baertschiger also said in the release that there are bills proposed in the Legislature that could adversely affect rates in Oregon. "We will work together to protect customers from ill-considered bills," he said.
In the same release, Pacific Power Vice President of External Affairs Scott Bolton issued the following statement:
"Like Sen. Baertschiger, we want to keep rates low for our customers. We've kept rates steady for several years now, and we'd like to continue to do so. That's why we oppose legislation that seeks to put unnecessary new costs on our customers.
"After a hard winter that has increased energy bills across the state, it is important for policymakers to be sensitive to the bottom line for families and businesses."
Saturday's planned demonstration comes after weeks of Facebook-driven complaints about high power bills in January. Some people have claimed they received electricity bills that were three times higher than normal.
The utility has referenced a less-than 1 percent increase based on projected fuel increases, compounded by storm-related delays in meter reading that added an extra seven to 10 days to some bills.
A large part of the protest comes from the fact that many residents in Josephine County found themselves without power amid the snowstorm that brought down power lines throughout the county. The bills were still higher than usual, but not across the board for all customers.
The statement by Pacific Power does not address this discrepancy between customers.
The demonstration, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, is intended to bring attention to what organizers on Facebook have called "dishonest and horrendous December power bills."
Organizers said they plan to picket a Pacific Power maintenance yard at 1420 Williams Highway. They've asked demonstrators not to block access to a nearby Dutch Bros.
— Reach reporter Troy Shinn at 541-474-3806 or firstname.lastname@example.org