Vote on new Grant PUD class scheduled for Aug. 28

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EPHRATA — Grant County PUD commissioners will approve, reject or send back for more work a proposal for a new “emerging industries” rate class at the Aug. 28 commission meeting. Opponents and proponents of the new Class 17 had something to say about the proposal at the commission’s Aug, 14 meeting. The proposal was prompted by a flood of requests for service in summer and fall 2017, and been the subject of exhaustive study. Many requests came from people in the cryptocurrency industry, which uses relatively new technology to process transactions and information. That led PUD employees to propose a separate class for businesses using new technologies - or new kinds of businesses - which includes an assessment of risk. The resulting proposed rates are higher than the existing Class 1 and Class 7, where most of the businesses are now. Utility district employees are recommending that the rates be phased in over a three-year period for existing customers. Emily Smith, representing the Grant County Economic Development Council, said the council was in favor of the new rate class. “We strongly support the immediate implementation of Class 17,” Smith said. Grant County has missed out on opportunities for new business due to the uncertainty over the power supply and cost, Smith said. Jeff Bishop, executive director of the Port of Moses Lake, cited businesses that had considered locating in Grant County but in the end had gone elsewhere, one to Portland and another to Georgia. Bishop said the uncertainty around electrical supply also is affecting the decisions of businesses that want to expand in Grant County as well. Port of Moses Lake commissioner Kent Jones said in his opinion the uncertainty has had a negative effect on attracting and retaining business. Current cryptocurrency owners protested that the Class 17 rates were too high, and had suggestions they said would alleviate some of the risk for PUD. Jonathon Toomin had a proposal for revised rate class, suggesting an upfront yearly fee and a curtailment policy. Aiden Kilek proposed letting the existing customers stay in their current rate class and adding a premium for risk factors. Brian Snyder said he thought the Class 17 proposal was flawed, putting unprecedented rate increases on Class 17 customers. He asked why existing cryptocurrency customers couldn’t be left alone; they are no threat to other customers, he said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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