By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
Nor-Cal and the concept of publically run power for Del Norte County met opposition last night from a handful of citizens and officials.
A lack of hard numbers, actual documents showing terms of the deals and documents showing how the public can make a success of a utility company were all issues giving pause to some at a public information meeting last night about forming Nor-Cal.
You keep talking about all these documents, but where are these documents? Why arent they made available to the public? The public has not been informed and are overwhelmingly against it, said Del Norte County Tax Collector Sarah Sampels to representatives of Nor-Cal, PacifiCorp (Del Norte Countys current power provider), and the county board of supervisors.
The public meeting was inspired by the recent announcement of a tentative purchase agreement between fledgling power cooperative Nor-Cal and PacifiCorp.
Though Nor-Cal is made up of a commission of county elected officials along with elected officials of Yreka, no terms of the buyout of PacifiCorps local lines have been released to the public.
Four of the five Del Norte County supervisors have come out in favor of the deal, but Chairwoman Martha McClure seems uncertain.
I too feel theres an information shortage ... we need some real information instead of this panacea of better, better, better and were going to double everything up. That makes me nervous, McClure said.
Audience members asked how much will be spent and wondered how much PacifiCorps local holdings are really worth? Some questioned why Del Norte County is spending almost twice as much time and money than the other counties to put the deal together.
No hard numbers were offered to answer those questions, but Supervisor Clyde Eller said the California Public Utilities Commission would not approve of the deal if it wasnt a fair and reasonable one. The CPUC is the state governing board with final say over all such utility deals.
The sale of PacifiCorp to Nor-Cal was once turned down by the CPUC last year. Since then the deal has been vigorously reworked to make it more beneficial to ratepayers, according to Eller and county counsel Bob Black.
Among the changes is a guarantee that rates will remain fixed for 10 years and afterward will not experience wide fluctuations.
Many changes have been made to the deal to make it more clear that the ratepayers will benefit, said Chris Aaberg, a managing director with PacifiCorp.
Now, the price is 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour. PacifiCorp has filed a request with the CPUC to raise that rate to 9.1 cents. But if Nor-Cal buys PacifiCorp, advocates say the rate will be raised to just 7.8 cents.
The cost of buying PacifiCorps distribution system will be paid off over 20 years, leaving open the possibility that rates could be reduced in the future, the dealmakers say.
The purchase agreement will be filed with the PUC in December and officials hope it will be approved by February.