PUD opposes I-1631

The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners voted in opposition of Initiative 1631 on Monday.

The “Protect Washington Act” will be before voters in the November Election, adjusting the Revised Code of Washington to enact a “pollution fee” on “large emitters”of pollution within the state.

The bill states that the intent of the beill is “reducing pollution by investing in clean air, clean energy, clean water, healthy forests, and healthy communities by imposing a fee on large emitters based on their pollution output”.

In the text of the bill, it states that the new pollution fee “ offsets and alleviates burdens to which those emitters directly contribute.”

On Monday, the Grays Harbor PUD spoke at their meeting to voice their opposition to the bill. Commission President Arie Callaghan said that while the intent may be to place the burden on these larger companies producing pollution, the concern is that the fee will be then passed onto local customers.

In the bill, it states,

“The pollution fee owed by a large emitter may be assumed by a light and power business when it purchases electricity from that large emitter.”

It is not known if this portion would allow the emitters to pass it through to the local companies directly instead of taking it into their budgets.

If passed, the pollution fee would equal $15 per metric ton of carbon content starting in January, 2020. This fee would increase $2 a ton each year until “the state’s 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goal is met and the state’s emissions are on a trajectory that indicates that compliance with the state’s 2050 goal is likely”.

Following that date, the fee would increase with inflation.

In a release, the PUD stated that,“We recognize that carbon emissions have a damaging impact on our environment and take pride in our environmental leadership through the PUD’s reliance on emission free hydro-electric and nuclear power,” said Commission President Arie Callaghan. “However, this initiative paints an unclear picture of our future. It wrests local control away from public utilities and places it in the hands of an appointed board without any assurance of utility input. That goes against the the core principal of a PUD.”

“We want to work with the environmental community to find a solution to carbon emissions, but the best solution would come through a joint effort with the Washington State legislature, not an initiative that was written without input from all the parties involved,” said Commission Vice President R uss Skolrood.

“While there are some positive points to a fee on carbon emissions, there are too many unknowns in I-1631 for the utility to support it,” said Commission Secretary Dave Timmons. “Let legislators work with utilities, industries and the environmental community in 2019 to come up with a solution to carbon emissions that the entire state can rally behind and continue Washington’s positive role in environmentally friendly energy production.”

All three Commissioners voted to oppose the bill. On Sunday at a candidate forum in Ocean Shores, PUD Commissioner candidate Allen Werth spoke out in favor of the bill, stating that he supported the initiative and that something needed to be done to reduce pollution.

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