PSE sale moves another step forward

The $7.4 billion sale of Puget Sound Energy to a consortium of private investors remains on track, a company official said Monday.

Despite some initial public opposition to the proposal, no objections were filed during the window provided following approval of the deal two weeks ago by a state agency.

“Friday was the deadline for parties to submit comments or ask for clarification, and no one did that,” said PSE spokeswoman Martha Monfried.

The next step?

“I’ll let you know when I find out what that is,” she said.

On Dec. 30, the Washington state Utilities and Transportation Commission voted 2-1 to approve a settlement on the sale of the Bellevue-based utility, which serves more than a million customers across the state, including about 34,000 on Whidbey Island.

PSE officials said the sale to New York-based Puget Holdings, a privately held group of investment companies and fund managers which maintains portfolios of infrastructure investments in the U.S., Canada and Australia, would be funded with $3.4 billion in cash, $2.6 billion of assumed debt held by PSE and $1.45 billion of newly issued debt.

Monfried said at the time of the decision that the company plans no changes in its operations on South Whidbey, and will keep its office open in Freeland.

In its decision, the commission said the sale was similar to other transactions the commission has reviewed and approved in recent years.

The three-member panel also noted that despite some public opposition to the sale, the settlement included

78 commitments that were in the public’s interest.

These included a pledge to protect PSE customers from rate increases that might stem from the sale, plus commitments to protect PSE’s financial health, the provision of quality service, help for low-income customers and efforts to provide renewable energy.

Commissioners said the state would continue to control rates after the sale is finalized. The commission also said it will continue to regulate PSE’s natural gas and electric rates, services, facilities and practices.

Commissioner Philip Jones opposed approval of the sale. He said the sale could force the commission to approve higher rates for customers in the future because of the way the takeover was structured.