In a carefully-reasoned opinion, the Court rejected all of the arguments presented by PGE on the merits of Plaintiffs' claims in the class action lawsuit against PGE in Marion County Circuit Court. That suit seeks to get back from PGE the over $200 million ratepayers paid to the utility for profits on Trojan between April 1995 and September 2000, plus a large amount of interest on this money. The Court agreed with Plaintiffs that their case against PGE was based on legitimate claims and that PGE was not immune from being forced to give back the money. The Court agreed that ratepayers can sue PGE directly for illegal charges included in past rates.
The Court rejected all of the arguments of PGE on why the Court should dismiss Plaintiffs' claims and allow PGE to keep this money. The Court agreed with Plaintiffs that there is no statute in Oregon allowing utilities to keep money collected under rates later declared unlawful by the courts. It also rejected PGE's argument that suits based on illegal charges cannot be decided by juries.
"Ratepayers paid PGE an extra $200 million in actual dollars for profits on Trojan during this 5.5-year period," said attorney Dan Meek. Trojan permanently shut down in November 1992. "Because PGE should pay ratepayers interest at the same high rate that the Oregon Public Utility Commission allows PGE to charge interest to ratepayers, this now amounts to over $500 million that PGE owes ratepayers."
The Court instructed Marion County Circuit Court to put the class action case on hold (in "abeyance"), until the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) completes its administrative proceeding resulting from losing in the courts to the Utility Reform Project (URP) on the issue of Trojan profits in a case that started in 1993 and ended with final judgment for URP in 2003. If the OPUC does not provide a full remedy for the ratepayers who paid the unlawful charges, then the class action case will resume. The Marion County Circuit Court in December 2004 already granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff ratepayers in that case and already certified the class as a valid class action.
In the on-going cases, the OPUC and the Attorney General continue to argue that OPUC has no power to correct illegal charges or to give ratepayers relief for past overcharges. "This decision might change their position, or might not, said Meek. Attorney for the Plaintiffs Linda Williams pointed out that there are now at least half a million PGE ratepayers who paid the unlawful charges during 1995-2000 but who have left the PGE system. "This series of cases started in 1993 and are now almost 14 years old," said Williams. "Ratepayers should not have to wait another 14 years to get their refunds."
The opinion is available at: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/S52217.htm
Daniel Meek, attorney
10949 S.W. 4th Avenue
Portland, OR 97219
(503) 293-9021 firstname.lastname@example.org