At their September 25th regular board meeting, the commission of Mason County PUD No. 1 unanimously passed a resolution opposing Initiative 1631, the “Carbon Emissions Fee Measure”.
Discussion centered around the ambiguity of the rule making process and concern that, as with other initiatives, that process could drastically alter the original intent of this initiative. Onerous regulation and compliance requirements were also discussed. “There is a mechanism for receiving a return on up to 100% of the fees that the utility would have to pay which involves developing a state-approved clean energy plan and annual reporting,” stated Kristin Masteller, general manager. “However, it is likely that the creation of that plan and the annual reporting would be cost prohibitive for our small utility. We simply don’t have the manpower to dedicate to managing a program like that to recoup our estimated $2,500 to $4,000 in fees each year.”
Board president Jack Janda took a separate issue with the way the initiative was written. “This initiative erodes our local control in our communities over our utilities and our rate making abilities. There is a public oversight board that is supposed to ensure this program is administered and staying on track to meet the targets but there is no utility representation anywhere on the board. That’s a problem.” Commissioner Ron Gold also had concerns about the pancaking of rates on customers who already are using energy that is over 98% clean stating, “We already have an issue of homelessness in our state where many families are living paycheck-to-paycheck. If we continue to layer on new taxes and fees on power and fuel we will end up taxing people right out of their homes. I can’t support that.”
“I think we based on previous discussions we’ve had regarding carbon emissions both here and at the table with our other PUDs, we all agree that carbon is an issue that needs to be addressed. This initiative is better than the last one that came through, but it still has too many exemptions for existing polluters, has too many unknowns, and it is not going to change where utilities like us buy our power from, which is Bonneville Power Administration” stated Masteller. “My hope is that eventually the clean air and clean energy advocates will come together with our PUD association and we can work together on legislation or an initiative that will be impactful in carbon reduction and that we can all support.”
Mason PUD 1 joins Benton and Franklin PUDs in opposing I-1631.