Yeah, I know that this story is going to get buried because of Bush & Kerry tomorrow, but it's important to many inner east side residents. The WEPUD campaign may very well be returned to the ballot tomorrow afternoon!
Willamette Electric PUD campaign granted hearing on motion to dismiss injunction
Portland, OR - On Friday, August 13, Attorney Tom Nelson, regarded as one of the top utility lawyers in Oregon and recently profiled in the Willamette Week, will represent the Willamette Electric People's Utility District campaign in a hearing to return the PUD vote to the November 2004 ballot. The hearing will take place at 3 p.m. in the chambers of Judge Janice Wilson on the fifth floor of the Multnomah County Courthouse, 1021 SW 4th Avenue.
On July 16, Judge Wilson issued a permanent injunction to remove the Willamette Electric PUD vote from the November ballot, based on an interpretation of the Oregon Constitution that would forbid a people's utility district from being formed from part of a municipality. Several PGE supporters were plaintiffs in the case, while Multnomah County was the defendant. The lawyer for the plaintiffs failed to join Willamette Electric PUD campaign (the real party of interest) in the case, and no notice of the hearing was given to the campaign. As a result, the campaign was unable to present a meaningful defense before Judge Wilson.
Attorney Nelson has filed motions for the Willamette Electric PUD to intervene in the case and for the injunction to be dismissed. Nelson has compiled a substantial amount of evidence to demonstrate that the plaintiffs' interpretation of the Oregon Constitution follows neither logic nor experience. He consistently demonstrates that the Oregon Constitution allows PUDs to be formed from parts of municipalities, and documents several instances where this occurred.
In one example, Nelson refers to a situation where Portland General Electric provides electric service to a Boise Cascade mill in St. Helens, Oregon. Columbia River PUD provides electric service to the overwhelming majority of the municipality of St. Helens, except for this small portion which PGE litigated to keep. If the plaintiffs' interpretation of the Constitution is upheld, then an all or nothing situation will have to take place with respect to a PUD's presence in a municipality. Most likely, PGE will be forced to give up its lucrative service to this mill in favor of Columbia River PUD. Nelson outlines several other dire consequences which will occur as a result of the Judge Wilson's previous judgment. This information is available on the WEPUD website at www.wepud.org/legal.php
Attorney Nelson spent much of his career working with Pacific Power, often against the interests of people's utility districts. Now Nelson has his own independent law practice, and explains his decision to represent the Willamette Electric PUD campaign. "My wife and I happen to live in the proposed district, and we believe that we should have the right to vote on this important issue. I've reviewed the potential economics for the PUD's customers, and they look quite attractive, particularly compared to some other proposals I've seen over time. PGE and Enron made some very bad decisions that we're all paying for today, and so I think that the voters deserve a chance to explore alternatives."
For more information, contact Jeff Cropp at (503) 235-0962 or Tom Nelson at (503) 230-8311.
For more details about the Willamette Electric PUD campaign and to read the legal arguments filed in the case, please see www.wepud.org/legal.php
To read the Willamette Week cover story about Tom Nelson, please see: