By KRISTINA BIIENNEMAN
In a dramatic shift, the Industrial Customers of NW Utilities - which includes corporate heavy hitters such as Intel Corp. and Wacker Siltronic Corp. - and consumer advocacy group Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon have given preliminiary endorsement to a public takeover of Portland General Electric.
The two interest groups voted this week to back a proposal from Willamette Valley Power to purchase PGE and convert it to a publicly run utility.
Support from the Industrial Customers group is a coup for public power advocates, since it includes some of the region's largest employers.
"There are a lot of public proposals out there and the only one that meets our needs is Willamette Valley Power." Said Jason Eisdorfer, CUB's energy program director.
Ken Canon of the Industrial Customers Group said it supports Willamette Valley's moving "forward to the next stage".
PGE's parent company, the now bankrupt Enron Corp. dropped plans last month to sell its subsidiary to NW Natural in favor of spinning of PGE into a reconstituted Enron whose interim name is OpCo Energy Corp.
Eisdorfer said CUB is concerned with two issues: What happens if we don't purchase PGE? And does Willamette Valley stand on its own merits? "We're not really thrilled with the likely result of Enron bankruptcy," he said.
Proponents have argued that a public takeover could lower rates by as much as 50 percent over the past year.
The Willamette Valley group includes representatives from six Oregon counties, including Washington, and Clackamas.
Willamette Valley's financial backing reportedly would come from the New York-based investment firm Goldman Sachs.
Meanwhile, Portland city commissioner Erin Sten has sought the authority to investigate a city takeover of PGE.
PGE, for its part, has opposed any public takeover and supports the plan to become a component of its parent company's new spin-off.
A creditors committee appointed by a New York bankruptcy judge will have the final say over PGE's future.
The judge must then approve the committee's recommendation. The possibility also exists that PGE could be sold off.