Regulators adopt tougher rules for movers

July 24, 2012

In a bid to protect consumers, state regulators adopted stricter entry requirements July 9 for residential moving companies in Washington.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission established tougher guidelines for applicants seeking to provide household goods and residential moving services within the state.

The requirements include mandatory criminal background checks for employees. Movers must also not have any convictions for certain felony crimes in the previous five years, provide evidence of enrollment in a drug and alcohol testing program, own or lease proper equipment, and hold a valid Washington driver’s license.

Movers must also get a permit from the Utilities and Transportation Commission, charge appropriate rates, carry proper insurance and keep vehicles safely maintained.

The commission is the state agency in charge of enforcing consumer protection and safety regulations for more than 200 residential moving companies operating within the state. The commission does not regulate movers operating across state lines.

Regulators crack down on illegal moving companies

July 10, 2012

State regulators took action June 13 against residential moving companies for operating without permits in Washington.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission cracked down after a judge ordered companies operating without permits to cease and desist until they obtain the required permits and insurance.

The companies received financial penalties between $2,000 and $5,000 apiece. The judge reduced the fine to $200 to $500 if the companies comply with state laws and rules for intrastate movers.

The commission does not regulate interstate moving companies.

The penalized companies include Ace Moving, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Dave Martin, of Mount Vernon; Handy Helpers, of Sandpoint, Idaho; Jay’s Moving Co. or Jeffrey’s Moving Company, of Everett; and Major Movers, of Marysville.

Regulators also fined another company, Jimmy’s Moving & Storage, of Everett. The owner failed to appear at the hearing.

The commission is the state agency in charge of enforcing consumer protection and safety regulations for more than 200 residential moving companies operating within the state. Movers must get a permit from the Utilities and Transportation Commission, charge appropriate rates, carry proper insurance and keep vehicles safely maintained.

State regulators crack down on illegal movers

June 17, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. June 17, 2012

State regulators took action June 13 against residential moving companies for operating without permits in Washington.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission cracked down after a judge ordered five companies operating without permits to cease and desist until they obtain the required permits and insurance.

The companies received financial penalties between $2,000 and $5,000 apiece. The judge reduced the fine to $200 to $500 if the companies comply with state laws and rules for intrastate movers.

The penalized companies include Ace Moving, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Dave Martin, of Mount Vernon; Handy Helpers, of Sandpoint, Idaho; Jay’s Moving Co. or Jeffrey’s Moving Company, of Everett; and Major Movers, of Marysville.

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Puget Sound Energy hikes electricity, natural gas rates

May 15, 2012

Issaquah residents started paying more for electricity and natural gas May 14.

In a recent decision, state utility regulators allowed Puget Sound Energy to increase rates 3.2 percent for electricity and 1.3 percent for natural gas customers.

The average residential electric customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours-per-month should pay about $3.30 more, for a bill total of $102.56. The typical natural gas customer using 68 therms per month should pay $1.08 more, for a bill total of $86.09.

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Call 811 before digging to avoid hitting gas pipelines

April 3, 2012

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission reminds people to call 811 before digging to build a fence or deck, plant trees and shrubs, or pull out a tree stump.

April is National Safe Digging Month. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a proclamation encouraging residents to call 811.

Washington residents should call 811 and obtain a free utility locator service at least two business days before digging. Call the UTC Consumer Help Line at 888-333-9882 toll free if the utility locator is late, incomplete or inaccurate.

The state recorded almost 1,300 damage incidents last year due to individuals hitting gas pipelines. The proper marking of underground utilities can reduce the risk of striking a line, causing outages, damages and deaths.

Help for heating is available to low-income consumers

March 20, 2012

The state utility regulator reminds residents about heating help available through the agency and the federal government.

The federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and utility company low-income assistance programs provide funding to qualifying households for assistance to pay for heating.

Residents can apply for heating assistance directly through energy companies. The utility in the Issaquah area, Puget Sound Energy, offers low-income assistance at http://pse.com/accountsandservices/YourBill/Pages/Low-Income-Assistance.aspx.

Call the state Utility and Transportation Commission’s Consumer Protection Help Line at 1-888-333-9882 toll free, or go to www.utc.wa.gov/consumers/energy/Pages/default.aspx, to locate assistance agencies, or to get help to resolve a billing dispute, disconnect notice or service complaint.

Hearing offers customers a chance to respond to utilities’ January storm efforts

March 15, 2012

NEW — 11:15 a.m. March 15, 2012

Utility customers from Issaquah and other areas impacted during the January storms can offer input on energy and telephone companies’ responses at a public hearing in Olympia.

People affected by the snowstorm and subsequent ice storm can speak at the state Utilities and Transportation Commission’s public hearing Monday. The commission meets at 9:30 a.m. Monday at 1300 S. Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia.

Starting at 9:30 a.m., Puget Sound Energy representatives plan to discuss electricity-related problems encountered during the storms. Then, at 10:30 a.m., regional cable and telephone companies plan to discuss performance during the storms. The public comment portion starts at 11:15 a.m.

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State utilities regulator focuses on energy conservation

February 14, 2012

The state utilities regulator, the Utilities and Transportation Commission, has created a Conservation and Energy Planning Section to focus on energy use and renewable energy, officials announced Feb. 7.

The section focuses on conservation and renewable energy requirements, energy reliability, greenhouse gas emissions and low-income programs.

“These changes recognize that conservation and renewable energy have become larger and more visible parts of our work,” Regulatory Services Director Mark Vasconi said in a statement.

The just-created Conservation and Energy Planning Section is under the leadership of longtime staff member Deborah Reynolds, assistant director.

The section continues to focus on economic regulatory matters, including rate cases, finance and accounting.

State utilities regulator focuses on energy conservation

February 8, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 8, 2012

The state utilities regulator, the Utilities and Transportation Commission, has created a Conservation and Energy Planning Section to focus on energy use and renewable energy, officials announced Tuesday.

The section focuses on conservation and renewable energy requirements, energy reliability, greenhouse gas emissions and low-income programs.

“These changes recognize that conservation and renewable energy have become larger and more visible parts of our work,” Regulatory Services Director Mark Vasconi said in a statement.

The just-created Conservation and Energy Planning Section is under the leadership of longtime staff member Deborah Reynolds, assistant director.

Officials appointed Acting Assistant Director for Energy Regulation Tom Schooley as the permanent assistant director for the energy section. The section continues to focus on economic regulatory matters, including rate cases, finance and accounting.

Regulators file complaint against PSE for disconnect fee

December 20, 2011

State regulators issued a complaint against Puget Sound Energy and said the utility improperly charged a residential-visit disconnect fee to electricity and natural gas customers.

In the complaint issued Dec. 14, state Utilities and Transportation Commission staffers said PSE committed 1,639 violations of state consumer protection rules. Staffers also asked the commission to require the utility to refund customers charged the $13 fee in error.

Officials said a PSE representative could only charge the fee if he or she went to the residence to disconnect service. Under state rules, PSE may not charge a disconnect-visit fee if the utility visits a customer’s home for a purpose other than to disconnect service, such as leaving a 24-hour termination notice or collecting a payment.

The three-member commission is due to schedule a hearing for the complaint. Then, the company has 20 days to respond. The commission could assess PSE as much as $1,000 for each violation. If punished, PSE is not allowed to pass any penalty costs to customers through rates.

Bellevue-based PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and almost 750,000 natural gas customers in Western Washington, including Issaquah.

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