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Puget Sound Energy not permitted to notify customers of rate hike

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission ruled detailing the new charges would be confusing to customers.

SEATTLE — Over the next few months, Puget Sound Energy customers may notice their natural gas bill will be a little higher.

But according to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, those customers don’t need to be told why they’re paying more.

“The Utilities Commission approved the rate hike, but made it illegal for Puget Sound Energy to list that on people’s bills,” said Todd Myers of the conservative think tank Washington Policy Center. “So people will see their rates go up, but they won’t know why, and in fact, the Utilities Commission has prohibited Puget Sound Energy from telling its customers.”

According to documents released earlier this month, the rate hike stems from the 2021 Climate Commitment Act. The legislation requires the state's biggest polluters to reduce their carbon emissions or purchase allowances to cover them. The complaint says Puget Sound Energy is now required to pay $16.8 million. That expense would be passed on to its customers, leading to an average increase of around $3.71 per month.

Documents say the commission argued that spelling out the new charge for customers would “quickly result in lengthy and confusing bills.”

Roger Nix, a long time Puget Sound Energy customer, disagreed.

“It kind of creates issues of trust, really,” he said. “If everything is transparent then you feel really good about your dealings with the company, and when it becomes non-transparent, you start to wonder what kind of shenanigans they might try to pull in the future.”

John Brei-Crawley said he’s feels the Commission’s reasoning is insulting.

“If I could change companies, I would!” he said. “At least look at other companies, but I don’t have any other options.”

Meanwhile, Myers said the commission’s decision to keep the rate hike off bills is a political one.

“Why is a government agency that is supposed to be representing the public hiding things from the public?” Myers asked. “This is a trend: government is looking to hide the costs of its own policies from the public because of the political backlash.”

KING 5 reached out to Puget Sound Energy for a comment. The company sent back a statement saying it wanted to put the charge on the bill, but the commission ruled against it, and the Commission has the final say.

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