- An Oregon group seeking to form a public utility in the Klamath Basin has submitted a necessary ballot initiative, but will face opposition from incumbent utility Pacific Power, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp, which has indicated it will oppose any attempts to take over its infrastructure,
- This is not the region's first time considering public power: the Herald and News points out that the city of Klamath Falls considered forming a Municipal Utility District two years ago, but tabled the idea after contentious debate.
- This time around, public power backers want to form a Public Utility District which would be governed by an elected board, hoping to avoid concern over a government-controlled utility.
Forming a public utility can be a tough fight, and for the utility, can mean the loss of a significant ratebase. So a protracted fight can often make the public power option look less attractive, and it is not uncommon for utilities to dig in. That's what's going on in Oregon, where the Herald and News contacted Pacific Power about the region's newly-revived plan. A group called Klamath Independent Public Power has filed a ballot initiative to form a PUD, which would allow an elected board to govern utility operations.
The city looked at public power two years ago, but the idea was tabled over concerns that the government should not be taking control of a private business. Forming a PUD rather than MUD could address those concerns, but it's six or a half dozen from Pacific Power's perspective.
“The company is not for sale and will oppose any attempt to take our property through condemnation," Pacific Power said in an email. "Such a move would be costly and risky for the county and would not lead to cost savings or more reliable electric service for customers.”
Mayor Todd Kellstrom supported the intial public power plan, but said after the last debate "I don’t see an appetite from the council to get back into that fight." But he also told the Herald and News that the time may be right for a change, as the state looks to alternative energy solutions.
According to the Klamath Independent Public Power's web site, "no city or county government has any involvement in running a P.U.D. And the P.U.D. would serve everyone in Klamath County now getting electricity through Pacific Power – no one is left out."
Pacific Power is based in Portland and provides electric service to 735,000 customers in Oregon, Washington and California. Klamath Falls is situated near the border with California and has about 20,000 residents.