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Oregon PUC approves Avista gas rate increase

The Oregon Public Utility Commission said it has approved a rate hike somewhat less than Avista Utilities requested for customers in Southern Oregon.

After a reviewing the application for nearly six months, the PUC approved a settlement agreed upon by its staff, customer groups and the Spokane-based utility to raise rates by $5.2 million annually, or 5.94 percent. The PUC said the figure is $4.2 million, or 3.9 percent, less than Avista originally asked.

The increased rates will be phased in beginning next month.

On Feb. 1, customers will see bills increase 4.39 percent, or $3.83 million, overall. A typical residential customer using an average of 48 therms per month will see an increase of $2.65 per month, or 4.9 percent, pushing the bill to $57. However, the average nightly low in Medford during January has been 10 degrees colder than normal, pushing up usage for many customers.

In November, the second increase — of 1.55 percent, or $1.35 million overall — kicks in. Customers using 48 therms per month will see bills go up 92 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $57.92.

Avista shareholders will see a 7.47 return on capital and a 9.65 percent return on equity. The utility said the increase will help it replace its customer information system as well as pay for pipeline replacement.

— Greg Stiles