Democrats in Olympia Tell Voters: You Were Wrong About that Environmental Stuff

By Josh Feit March 9, 2009

Last week, PubliCola continued reporting on some news we broke in January: The state legislature is poised to undo I-937, the 2006 initiative approved by voters to promote renewable energy. I-937 required utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. 

We interviewed the bill's sponsor at length, the Democrats' Majority Whip, Sen. Chris Marr (D-6, Spokane), for our story. 

Another major proponent of the bill to undo I-937 is state Senate Majority Leader Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane). Sen. Brown got her say on the issue today: The Seattle Times, which came out strongly against the initiative in 2006, gave Brown space to write a guest editorial defending the legislation. 

She writes:

SB 5840 would allow utilities some flexibility in meeting the renewable-energy standard when costs for renewable energy are high. Utilities would, in effect, be allowed to substitute meeting conservation targets in place of meeting renewable-energy use targets. This still allows utilities to meet I-937's overall emissions goals...

This sounds reasonable, but it needs to be put in context and corrected. 

First, the initiative itself already made provisions so utilities could cope with the costs of meeting the renewable goals, allowing some utilities to meet lower standards. There was, in fact, a price cap for utilities that were struggling to meet the goal. (And as we pointed out in our story, utilities like Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy are not having any trouble meeting the standard.)  

Second, Brown is revisiting arguments that conservatives (and the Seattle Times) made in 2006—and lost. Conservation is not supposed to be counted toward the  renewable goal. In fact, I-937 set out a separate conservation goal. The intent of I-937 was to increase the state's reliance on renewable energy sources. 

I'm not sure if U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1, WA)—the biggest advocate of I-937—will get to write a guest editorial in the Seattle Times as well

While we wait for Inslee to get his say in the Seattle Times, here's what he told PubliCola last week about the legislature's move to undo I-937.
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