EPHRATA — A group of cryptocurrency companies has filed a lawsuit against the Grant County PUD seeking to stop the implementation of the utility's “emerging industries” class, and seeking damages. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane Dec. 19.
The suit also names the five PUD commissioners at the time the rate schedule was adopted, Terry Brewer, Bob Bernd, Dale Walker, Tom Flint and Larry Schaapman, and up to 10 unnamed PUD administrators and employees.
The plaintiffs, eight companies and one individual, are alleging the PUD and the commissioners acted illegally and unconstitutionally when they adopted the Class 17 rate in August. The vote was 5-0. The new rate is scheduled to be added to the PUD's rate schedule in April.
The lawsuit was discussed briefly at the Jan. 8 meeting of the commission, when commissioners approved hiring an attorney, Van Ness Feldman, LLC, Seattle.
The suit claims Class 17 violates Constitutional protections and federal laws because it “discriminates against the Plaintiffs in favor of local interests, and it also places a huge burden on interstate commerce that is unjustified by any legitimate local interest.”
The proposed Class 17 rates were announced in June and debated at commission sessions throughout July and August. The plaintiffs allege the public input process was inadequate, and that there is inadequate right of appeal.
The new rate “makes Grant PUD staff judge, jury and executioner, allowing staff to force plaintiffs (and any other industry) into Schedule 17 with its crippling rate increases, without even minimal procedural protections, such as the opportunity to be heard and the opportunity to appeal.
“Indeed, Grant PUD's conduct since the adoption of Schedule 17 demonstrates the plaintiffs have been classified as ‘evolving industries' by fiat of Grant (PUD) staff, without even going through the minimal procedures (the rate class) supposedly requires.”
The PUD has not yet replied to the initial filing.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.