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The Portland Tribune — Business Briefs
Date: 10/31/2003

Panel can't make PGE pay back taxes

State utility regulators have reaffirmed that they can't force Portland General Electric or its bankrupt parent company, Enron Corp., to turn over unpaid federal and state income taxes.

PGE reportedly has collected and forwarded to Enron $600 million since 1997, the year the Houston energy giant bought the utility. Enron did not pay the federal taxes that PGE contributed.

PGE, which pays its state income taxes separate from Enron, paid the minimum $10 last year.
In an Oct. 24 ruling, the Oregon Public Utility Commission determined that PGE "did nothing improper with regard to the tax issue," said PUC spokesman Bob Valdez. Regulators cannot "change rates retroactively with a refund," he said.

The PUC was responding to the Utility Reform Project's request for reconsideration of a March complaint regarding PGE's unpaid taxes. Valdez says the activist group's request raised no new issues. Dan Meek, who represents the Utility Reform Project, says the group will appeal the latest response in court.

Meek disputes the PUC finding, saying the commission "doesn't have to allow fraud. I believe this is fraud on the ratepayers."

The PUC mailed out its decision last Friday, less than two weeks before Multnomah County voters decide whether to establish a people's utility district to take over PGE assets.

PGE spokesman Scott Sims says the company has collected taxes in strict compliance with state and federal tax laws. He said the PUC has found that PGE is "perfectly in keeping with the standards that they (the regulators ) developed for utilities."


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