Daily News editorial

The seventh anniversary of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter’s death passed by this week and we just wanted to write something in honor of him.

Chief Painter’s death rocked the community far and wide. He was both well loved and highly thought of. It’s hard to believe that seven years have passed so quickly. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family.

We remember you, Chief Painter.

Cowlitz PUD

We were fortunate to spend some time with PUD General Manager Steve Kern and Director of Regulatory Affairs Chris Roden this past week.

The conversation with the PUD was centered on the upcoming legislative session, which is scheduled to start Monday, January 8. This year’s legislative session is scheduled to last 60 days, in other words a short session. Some are already wondering if the session will be extended to deal with issues such as a carbon tax.

Governor Jay Inslee put forward a proposed budget that included a carbon tax. Inslee has not been shy about the focus of his tenure being climate change. He has advocated previously for either a carbon tax or some sort of cap and trade system to help reduce carbon emissions.

The team at Cowlitz PUD is working with other Washington utilities to help legislators understand some of the possible effects of a carbon tax, or cap and trade legislation, on the power industry. And from our discussion with Kern and Roden, a lot is at stake for PUD ratepayers.

From a broad perspective, one of the benefits and challenges to the power industry is its regional. For example, power generated in Washington or Oregon can be sold to California. As Kern told us, “An electron doesn’t know what state it’s in.”

What happens when West Coast states pass different laws that impact the power industry? California has a cap and trade system, which hasn’t been very successful. Oregon is currently looking at a cap and trade system too, but it won’t necessarily be exactly like California’s.

Washington state will most likely get some sort of carbon tax in the next few years. How will a carbon tax work when energy is sold to California or vice versa? And what role will power from renewable sources play? The questions and ramifications are complex.

If you remember back in 2006, Washington state voters passed Initiative 937, which set renewable energy goals. I-937 passed by a margin of 52 percent in favor and 48 percent against.

I-937 required larger utilities to obtain 3 percent of their power from renewables by 2012, 9 percent by 2016 and 15 percent by the year 2020.

Will carbon taxes, cap and trade systems and renewable energy goals across the western states lead to power costs being substantially more expensive? We think so.

The PUD team is also passing along information to legislators about a possible extension of I-937. Some groups are pushing for the I-937 goals to be extended into the future. Currently, I-937’s renewable energy goals end in the year 2020. But some want to see new and higher goals established for the future.

The feedback we received from PUD executives, as well as from legislators, is that I-937 needs to be tweaked. Most notably, the initiative does not count hydro power as being a renewable energy source which just seems ridiculous.

In response to I-937, the Cowlitz PUD invested heavily in wind farms to meet the new state-mandated renewable energy guidelines. Cowlitz PUD executives don’t like the idea of a bad law being extended into the future, especially as it is likely to cost them a huge amount of money to comply with more rigid renewable energy standards.

Can you imagine what the impact would be on ratepayers if Cowlitz PUD had to invest in building more wind farms or other renewable energy platforms to meet extended I-937 guidelines?

When talking about legislation, the term “unintended consequences” typically comes up. Any new carbon tax, cap and trade system or I-937 extension would likely be bad for both ratepayers and the environment.

If carbon taxes are implemented incorrectly, power companies could find it cheaper to buy and sell coal-based energy as opposed to more expensive renewables.

The negative scenarios possible if poor carbon legislation — or another badly written, citizen-based initiative — is passed are endless.

Some lawmakers believe passing problematic legislation that can be fixed in subsequent years is better than allowing a badly written, citizen initiative to pass. The thought being bad legislation is better than a bad initiative.

I-937 is a great example of the Legislature (and citizens) getting stuck with a bad law through the initiative process.

From our perspective, bad legislation is bad legislation.

The TDN editorial board opposes a carbon tax, cap and trade scheme or any extension to I-937. Our community would be forever harmed if major employers were sabotaged with legislation costing them millions of dollars to reduce carbon emissions.

We hope state Democrats, who control the governor’s office, House of Representatives and the Senate, don’t let their new found majority status lead them down a path that will hurt citizens of the 19th District for years to come.

Democrats are touting the idea of “One Washington,” meaning the entire state needs consideration when new laws are passed, not just Seattle and King County.

The upcoming session will prove whether “One Washington” is just a slogan or a reality.

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