Friday, July 07, 2006

News From My Backyard: Broad Alliance Submits 330,000 Signatures for Washington Clean Energy Initiative

Yesterday evening, the people of Washington State took an important stride forward toward a clean and affordable energy future. A broad coalition of utilities, businesses, labor, farmers and conservationists delivered more than 330,000 signatures to Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, effectively qualifying Initiative 937 -- the Clean and Renewable Energy Initiative -- for the November 7 statewide ballot, according to a Renewable Northwest Project (RNP) press release.

I-937 will guarantee that by 2020, 15 percent of the electricity from Washington’s largest utilities will come from new renewable energy sources, and that affected utilities implement all the bill-reducing energy conservation measures available in their communities. If/when voters approve I-937 this November, Washington will join 20 other states and the District of Columbia whose citizens already benefit from similar policies.

Speaking from the steps of the State Capitol building, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee praised the dedicated volunteers who were central the signature drive’s success. “The large number of volunteers who collected signatures indicates strong public support for conservation and renewable energy,” Inslee said. Nearly 3,500 volunteers from across the state collected more than 185,000 signatures for I-937 – three-fourths of the 224,880 signatures needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

Speakers at the event highlighted the initiative’s benefits for the economy, small business, rural landowners and children. For example, renewable energy projects will bring significant new tax payments to struggling rural communities.

“Taxes from the first phase of the proposed wind project in Klickitat County will add over three times the annual revenue of our fire district, allowing us to upgrade equipment -- including a new ambulance,” said Klickitat Fire Protection District #2 commissioner Miland Walling. Projected tax payments from PPM’s Big Horn wind project would raise the fire district’s annual tax revenues from about $26,000 now to $130,000 in 2008.

New renewables projects provide new income sources to family farmers and other rural landowners, said Kittitas County rancher and retired teacher Mike Genson.

“With wind turbines on our land we will not have to prematurely subdivide and sell our land” said Mike Genson, who raises horses and bison on land within the proposed Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project. “Clean energy is the way of the future and will help keep our kids on the land.”

Increased reliance on conservation and renewable energy sources will reduce the need for new coal-fired power plants. “We need to reduce our dependence on all fossil fuels,” said Dr. Chris Covert-Bowlds, a Bellingham physician. “The harmful effects -- whether from mercury from burning coal or the effects of global warming -- will impact our children for generations to come.”

Many business and labor leaders have previously lauded the job-creation opportunities the initiative will create. "Energy efficiency and renewable energy mean real work and good jobs for businesses across the state,” Ash Awad, Vice President of Seattle-based McKinstry Co., said recently. “McKinstry has been able to maintain the employment of over 50 staff and professional engineers, as well as 200-300 trade jobs year after year. These are jobs that would not have existed without energy efficiency projects."

Energy consumers also have much to gain from I-937’s passage, several speakers noted. Energy efficiency will lower their bills immediately, and new renewables from sources such as wind and solar will shield consumers from fossil-fuel price spikes and drought-related shortages of hydropower.

Resources:

  • Yes on I-937 website

  • [Full disclosure: I am currently working for the Renewable Northwest Project as an intern.]

    1 comment:

    KenG said...

    At the risk of being labeled a naysayer, I would question how much of a breakthrough this is and how much the citizens of the other 20 states really benefit. The legislative "pulls" of requiring renewables, conservation, etc. seem to always fall short. The "push" from actual technology advances will make a change, but wind, solar, etc still have significant technical and practical limitations. These initiatives will probably fail unless there is a feasible technical solution because the "citizens" won't pay the large premium (or subsidy) for energy currently required. I would venture that the only realistic way for Washington to meet these "clean energy" goals would be construction of nuclear power plants and/or a new series of hydroelectric dams.