Guest Opinion: PUD Commissioners should fulfill their mission by supporting I-732

We are disappointed that the Clallam County PUD Board of Commissioners voted against supporting Initiative 732, a measure designed to accelerate the switch to affordable clean energy.

We are disappointed that the Clallam County PUD Board of Commissioners voted against supporting Initiative 732, a measure designed to accelerate the switch to affordable clean energy.

I-732 taxes the carbon pollution from consuming fossil fuels and returns that revenue to households and businesses by cutting the state sales tax rate by 1 percent, reducing tax on manufacturers and funding a tax rebate for low-income Washington working families.

We think Clallam PUD — and all Clallam County residents — should be in favor of I-732. Here’s why:

I-732 is a good deal for Clallam County. The PUD’s claim that I-732 will impose substantial costs on local residents is not accurate. Thanks to the utility’s clean power supply, the carbon tax would be less than two-tenths of a penny per kilowatt-hour sold to customers, based on the utility’s average fuel mix for the period 2010-2014 and a tax rate of $25 per ton of CO2. The owner of an average 2,000-square-foot-home with electric heat would pay about $40 more per year or just $20 with non-electric heat.

On the other side of the I-732 tax swap, a household earning the county median family income of $58,100 would save about $226 from the sales tax cut, according to an online carbon tax swap calculator developed by the University of Washington. Many working families in the bottom 20 percent (by income) will pay less than half the state taxes they do now, thanks to a rebate of up to $1,500 per qualifying family.

In short, most Clallam residents will keep more money in their pockets with I-732.

I-732 will help utilities meet regulatory mandates. Adopting I-732 will satisfy Washington’s obligation under the federal Clean Power Plan and enable large polluters to meet the requirements in the proposed state Clean Air Rule. I-732 also will help Clallam PUD obtain at least 15 percent of its power from renewables by 2020, as state law requires, by encouraging regional power producers to switch from dirty coal to clean energy.

I-732 will curb fossil fuel pollution which contributes to climate change. As a coastal community, Clallam County is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. So far, 2016 is providing a preview of what that future may look like. Unusually warm spring temperatures have quickly reduced our winter snowpack, threatening water supplies and increasing the risk of wildfires. Rising sea levels will flood low coastal areas and changes in ocean temperature and chemistry are damaging the health of vital fisheries.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s situation illustrates these threats. The tribe is particularly vulnerable to the risk of sea level rise and is considering moving people and infrastructure out of harm’s way. In a 2014 guest column in the Peninsula Daily News (“Plan now to move people and infrastructure, including roads, out of harm’s way,” Jan. 4), Tribal Chair W. Ron Allen wrote, “Our hunting, fishing and gathering is dependent upon healthy and sustainable resources — all of which may be affected by climate change impacts … The enormity of the issue feels overwhelming.”

We have a responsibility to protect our children and future generations from these dangerous and costly threats to our community. With I-732, we can reduce taxes while protecting the environment. We urge the Clallam PUD commissioners to support I-732 and fulfill their mission to provide reliable, efficient, safe and low cost utility services in a financially and environmentally responsible manner.


Mike Doherty is a retired Clallam County commissioner. Phil Lusk is a retired Deputy Director of Power and Telecommunications Systems (City of Port Angeles). Bob Sextro isan Executive Committee Member of Olympic Climate Action.