Avista executives' compensation jumps more than $1.8 million - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Avista executives' compensation jumps more than $1.8 million

Avista CEO Scott Morris earned $2.2 million in 2008 Avista CEO Scott Morris earned $2.2 million in 2008
Avista Utilities Headquarters in Spokane Avista Utilities Headquarters in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. - On the heels of a series of requests for rate increases Avista Corp. has released information that includes executive salaries and compensation. That information is available to the public as part of the company's annual proxy statement filing with the SEC which and comes on the heels of a filing from the company's state-run utility firm requesting rate increases. The proxy was filed Tuesday afternoon with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission which is available through the SEC and Avista's website. Filing such proxy documents is a requirement for publicly traded companies prior to annual stockholder meetings.

According to the proxy total incentives pay for six Avista executives including Chairman of the Board, President & CEO Scott Morris added up to $849,868 in 2008. That's up from $135,404 in 2007. Overall total compensation for Avista's six executives totaled $5,335,192 for 2008 up nearly $1.8 million from the compensation paid to five company executives in 2007.

In January, Avista filed rate increase requests in both Idaho & Washington that would raise monthly bills by $9 to $10 per month. The rate hike request in Washington is seeking a 16%  electric rate increase and a gas rate 2.4 % If approved those rate increases will produce about 55 million dollars in new revenue for the company. That latest request follows a previous rate increase request of $43.2 million. In a multi-party settlement the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission lowered that increase to $37.3 million in electric and natural gas revenues. Those rates went into effect for Washington Avista customers on January 1st.

Since then the Washington State Attorney General's Office filed a 72-page appeal against the most recent rate increase request with the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission to block that increase. Avista said it needed the rate increase to cover capital improvements and other projects. In filing the appeal attorney Simon Ffitch with the Attorney General's office says that Avista failed to take the prior approved rate increase into account when it decided how large a rate increase it chose to file in January.

The Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission will hold hearings on the rate increases starting on Tuesday, October 6, 2009. The commission will also hold two public comment hearings on September 30, 2009, one in Spokane Valley at 12:30 p.m. and one in downtwon Spokane at 5:30 p.m. to provide an opportunity for members of the public to comment on the requests.

Ratepayers, through their utility bills, pay for 41 percent of executives' salaries and cash incentives, said Wuerst, the Avista spokeswoman. In an interview with the Spokesman-Review Simon ffitch said, "The company is entitled to pay whatever it would like to pay its executives. The question that the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission has to ask is, what is a fair level for the ratepayers to have to contribute?"
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