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    Idaho Public Utilities Commission denies Rocky Mountain Power request to limit liabilities

    By Clark Corbin,

    2024-06-04
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=12xu2a_0tgWUxjx00

    The entrance to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission office is pictured in Boise, Idaho. (Mia Maldonado/Idaho Capital Sun)

    The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has denied a request from Rocky Mountain Power to limit its own liabilities, even in cases of gross negligence.

    Last month, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission issued an order denying the application to revise terms of service in Rocky Mountain Power’s electrical service agreements. The utility sought to limit its damages to only actual damages, not punitive damages, special damages, consequential damages, indirect damages or noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, according to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission .

    “After a review of the application and other information, the commission determined it was not fair, just, or reasonable to approve the application,” the Idaho Public Utilities Commission said in a written statement issued May 16. “The commission also determined that limitations of liability regarding willful conduct or gross negligence are contrary to the public interest, unfair, and unreasonable.”

    Rocky Mountain Power is a division of PacifiCorp that provides electric power to customers in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Rocky Mountain Power serves almost 90,000 retail customers in Idaho, according to Rocky Mountain Power’s application . Overall, PacifiCorp serves 2.1 million customers in the West, including in California, Oregon and Washington, according to the utility’s website .

    The Idaho Public Utilities Commission comprises three commissioners who are appointed by the governor. The commission regulates publicly owned and investor-owned utilities that provide gas, water, electricity and some telephone services for profit.

    The Sierra Club, an environmental organization founded in 1892 that has 3,000 members in Idaho, fought Rocky Mountain Power’s application from the beginning.

    In public comments opposing the utility’s request, the Sierra Club pointed out that Rocky Mountain Power filed the request to limit its liability in Idaho after its parent company PacifiCorp was found liable for causing devastating wildfires in Oregon over Labor Day 2020. In 2023, the Associated Press reported that an Oregon jury found PacifiCorp responsible for causing the wildfires, which killed nine people and destroyed 5,000 homes or structures.

    “Yet, avoiding liability for its gross negligence appears to be precisely (Rocky Mountain Power’s) intention, considering that the company’s gross negligence verdict for wildfires started in Oregon is presumably what prompted the current tariff revision proposal,” the Sierra Club wrote in opposition to the utility’s request. “Strikingly, (Rocky Mountain Power) seeks to avoid paying out rightful damages should it again be found grossly negligent, without the burden of committing to any additional actions that would reduce the risk of wildfire in the first place.”

    Why did Rocky Mountain Power seek to limit its liability in Idaho?

    After the decision, Rocky Mountain Power’s parent PacifiCorp said it stood by its request.

    “PacifiCorp continues to believe its proposed change would strike a balance between everyone’s priorities of safety and affordability in providing electric service,” PacifiCorp spokesman Simon Gutierrez said Thursday in a written statement to the Idaho Capital Sun. “The proposed change would limit damages arising from the company’s provision of electric service to actual damages, and customers would still be compensated for losses such as damage to homes or property. The measure would not have affected ongoing litigation.”

    In a phone interview with the Idaho Capital Sun on Wednesday, Rose Monahan, a staff attorney for the Sierra Club, described Rocky Mountain Power’s liability application as an audacious request. Monahan said the Idaho Public Utilities Commission issued a well reasoned decision that protected customers.

    “Customers don’t have leverage to negotiate these terms of service and don’t have other utility companies they can take service from, so this was a take-it-or-leave it position and all of the bargaining power was on the side of the utility,” Monahan told the Sun.

    Bayer Corp also submitted public comments opposing Rocky Mountain Power’s request, arguing that the proposal to limit the utility’s liability would violate Idaho law.

    Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords for questions: info@idahocapitalsun.com . Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter .

    The post Idaho Public Utilities Commission denies Rocky Mountain Power request to limit liabilities appeared first on Utah News Dispatch .

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