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"Though conserving, Langley fears 2002 electric bills"

"When Puget Sound Energy regains its freedom to increase its electricity rates early next year, the City of Langley may feel some pain in its budget.At the Langley City Council meeting last week, council members worried aloud about the prospect of doubled or tripled electric rates.Council member Neil Colburn said a 100 to 300-percent increase - which could be expected based on current wholesale electric prices - would force the city to pay far more than the $54,000 it did for its 2000 electric bills.I've been singing this tune for months, Colburn said. I'm worried about the budget.With PSE's failure to push a mandatory, time-of-day electricity rate package through the state's utilities and transportation commission Wednesday, the prospect of a big increase seems more likely. Rate payers in several of the state's public utility districts have already seen rate increases in double digits during the past few months.At rate hike would come despite the city's efforts to reduce its electricity consumption. City clerk-treasurer Debbie Mahler said recent conservation efforts at City Hall have put a dent in Langley's power bill. She said measures such as turning off computers at night and swapping out incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents dropped power consumption 1,740 kilowatt hours this March compared to the same period last year. Mayor Lloyd Furman lauded the accomplishment, but noted that the city cannot cut its consumption much further since necessary systems such as sewer and water pumps and street lights must run as much as they ever have. Turning off more lights will not spare the city in the face of a major rate increase. Furman disagreed with Colburn's dire forecast, saying he believes a major rate increase is unlikely.At present, city staff have received no indication whether PSE will raise its rates or by how much. Council member Bill Hawkins said the utility should serve its rate payers by telling them ahead of time how much its electricity price will rise. In the city's case, Hawkins said such notice needs to be given by mid-summer to allow city staff and the council to budget for the extra cost. "

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