Isn't It Weird That ...

Three weird things we noticed in Olympia.

By Josh Feit March 12, 2013

Isn't It Weird That

1. Isn't it weird that ... coal counts as clean energy?

Yes. In fact, I'd argue that's the weirdest thing that's ever shown up in this column dedicated exclusively to weirdness.

But that's precisely what a Republican bill that's cued up for a floor vote in the state senate does. The bill would allow utilities that buy power from the TransAlta coal-fired power plant to reduce their energy load by the equivalant amount when calculating progress toward meeting I-937. (I-937 is the 2006 voter-approved initiative that mandated electric utilities get 15 percent of their load from renewable sources by 2020.)

The TransAlta loophole means this: if 10 percent of a utility's power was purchased from TransAlta, the utility's I-937 mandate would be reduced by 10 percent. Bottom line: Utilities can use dirty energy to meet the voter-approved clean energy initiative. 


A Republican bill would allow utilities to use dirty energy to meet the voter-approved clean energy initiative. It'd be like cutting fries out of your diet and replacing them with onion rings. To add some sick irony to the weirdness: In an unambiguous recognition that coal is the opposite of clean energy, the legislature passed a historic bill two years ago to phase out coal at the TransAlta plant by 2025.

This bill facilitates that ramp-down by selling dirty energy to other power plants in an effort to fulfill renewable energy goals. It'd be like cutting fries out of your diet and replacing them with onion rings.

2.  Isn't it weird that .... 2013's liberal cause celebre, gun control, may be bankrolled at the polls by Nick Hanauer, the same wealthy Democratic donor who bankrolled last year's liberal bete noire—charter schools.

Indeed, the new gun control group, Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which is being funded by Hanauer, may play a prominent role in Rep. Jamie Pedersen's (D-43, Capitol Hill) strategy to pass a universal background check bill.

Seattle Times reporter Brian Rosenthal is all over the story, but basically: Pedersen wasn't able to convince enough pro-gun rights Democrats to go along with his bill, so he's resorted to adding a referendum clause, which means the legislation must go to a public vote; the move gives pro-gun rights legislators cover, and likely means it will pass the house soon (maybe tonight).

It also means Hanauer's supposed evil corporate money (he spent more than $1 million on last year's successful charter intiative), will now be critical when the liberal gun control referendum goes to the people.

The legislation also has to pass the senate. While the votes are there, the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus, which runs the senate, may block a vote.

Which brings up another weird fact.

3. Isn't it weird that ... a cosponsor of the senate version of the background checks bill is senate majority leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina)? Yet despite Tom's pledge that empowering the GOP (as he did by joining their caucus) wouldn't upend the state's blue policy agenda (79 percent of Washington voters support universal background checks), a successful house vote on gun control may never get a vote in his senate.

Indeed, the senate version, sponsored by Sen. Adam Kline (D-37, South Seattle) bill with 23 co-sponsors, never got a hearing to begin with. 

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