August 16, 2018
The Honorable Mayor David Condon
The Honorable City Council President Ben Stuckart
The Honorable Members of the Spokane City Council
Spokane City Hall
808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Spokane, WA 99201
Re: 100% Renewable energy requirement by 2030
To: Mayor David Condon, Council President Ben Stuckart, Councilmember Kate Burke, Councilmember Mike Fagan, Councilmember Breean Beggs, Councilmember Lori Kinnear, Councilmember Candace Mumm, and Councilmember Karen Stratton:
We, the undersigned, urge you, the members of the Spokane City Council, to reconsider its recent Climate Action Plan resolution and ordinance, which mandates that every resident, employer, and the City only access electricity sourced 100% from “renewables” by 2030. This will lead to disastrous rate hikes for our community.
First and foremost, this proposal is unnecessary. We are impressed at the work the City administration is already doing to make our community cleaner and more sustainable, while working to be financially responsible. According to the 10 step implementation plan released by the City administration, “good progress” has been made in four of the ten areas of focus: “sustainable, integrated, resilient infrastructure; clean air; solid waste, zero waste; and environmentally friendly purchasing policies.” Furthermore, “some progress,” has been made in four additional areas: “wise land stewardship; save water; right-sized transportation; and energy security.” Clearly, there is additional work to be done within each of these projects and that is where the city should maintain its efforts – leading by example in a fiscally responsible manner. To implement broad new regulations prior to completing this work would be imprudent.
We are concerned about the process used to develop this plan and the accompanying public policies. The ordinance states that “achieving these goals will require action at all levels: individual, family, neighborhood, community, local, [etc.]”. However, the “work group” that began meeting on October 10th to research and draft this proposal was not appointed by the Council, instead it was comprised of a handful of activists and not any of the stakeholders listed above. The activists of 350.org who made up this work group concede in their documentation that they are “not experts.” We believe substantial policy change should not be developed without the participation of the public, and/or our elected officials in an open meeting setting. A proposal drafted by a special interest group in private can always be put to a public vote through the initiative process, but to adopt it without a fair and open process involving affected stakeholders is not good public policy.
Furthermore, the “Commission” established in the ordinance appears intentionally designed to prevent a diversity of perspectives. A topic this substantial deserves many opinions from many backgrounds – including members of the business community and not just those deemed to hold likeminded points of view.
Those of us signing this letter represent a small percentage of the numerous stakeholders in our community who will be impacted by these policies. We all should have been invited to participate from the beginning.
The City Council rules require a financial impact statement for any ordinance they bring forward. However, none has been provided yet by the City. Back of the envelope estimates from some city officials indicate that the cost to the City budget could be over $20 million dollars. This doesn’t begin to account for the costs to the private sector, struggling working class families, and new transplants trying to put down roots in our community.
The investments required for compliance by our local utility would be considerable, and the cost of those investments would be passed along to rate payers – families and employers. This would severely impact our community. We are confident that if the City or a third party conducted a cost analysis the public would be horrified at the results.
The proposal refers to these rate hikes as a “price spike” or a “cost burden” and suggests that we would need to develop a new set of special programs to assist those unable to pay these new increased rates.
Another important aspect to consider are the critical implications on the cost of housing. We are already suffering from a housing crisis, a lack of available units, as well as increasingly expensive options for home buyers and renters. This proposal explicitly implies impacts to building and energy codes forcing higher rents and mortgages for home buyers, potentially pricing many families out of the marketplace. This doesn’t even account for the expensive pass through energy costs borne by developers and contractors . Nearly 45% of Spokane renters and nearly 30% of all owners/tenants make less than $35,000 a year and spend 30% or more of their income on housing related costs. We cannot afford to subsidize the added and unnecessary cost burden this proposal would place on so many in our community
One of the advantages our community has over the I-5 corridor is our relatively low-cost of living. Employers looking to relocate or expand their operations beyond the greater Seattle or Portland areas are seeking smarter, more reasonable regulations. This new policy substantially threatens our competitiveness.
Higher rates, as we point out, mean tough choices for local families, employers, as well as the city budget. Spokane and local employers cannot maintain regional competitiveness if we are the sole municipality implementing this plan. The cost savings in surrounding jurisdictions would place the City of Spokane at a noticeable disadvantage.
This is simply a misguided ordinance that would outlaw emissions-free nuclear power, creates confusion around the legality of hydroelectric power – one of our region’s greatest resources, and it puts Spokane’s waste-to-energy plant in a precarious position by outlawing the burning of petroleum based products, which make up a substantial portion of the materials that flow through the facility.
There are some real concerns over how this ordinance would even be implemented. It doesn’t appear technically feasible for our local energy utilities to serve the City of Spokane with electricity from one source, while serving the rest of the region with other sources of energy. This is an obstacle facing the City of Edmonds, WA, which has adopted a 100% renewables requirement. According to the Everett Daily Herald, “The city’s [Edmonds’] deadline of 2025 appears to be a stillborn goal due to the realities of how electricity is generated and transported to homes, shops and offices. Achieving 100 percent clean and renewable energy in eight years would require Edmonds to pull out of the regional power grid. When a person in Edmonds flips on a light switch, the electricity illuminating the room comes from a variety of sources around the Northwest.”
Similarly, if our local energy utilities cannot comply with this unworkable requirement, what are the potential consequences to them as well as to us local rate payers?
In 2006, the voters of Washington State approved I-937, an initiative requiring that 15% of our state’s electricity be sourced from renewables by 2020. Some of us supported this concept, while others opposed it. Regardless, the measure allowed 14 years for utilities in WA State to adapt to the change and incorporate the renewables into the mix. This new proposal as presented, would leave our local energy utilities barely a 10-year window to comply with a much more complicated, massive, and burdensome regulatory scheme.
We find this change in policy misguided and unworkable. We further object to how it was developed and the resulting financial stress it will place on everyone living, working, and/or operating a business in Spokane. It ignores the sizable impacts on the City’s budget and the real-world logistics of implementing such a plan.
Please reconsider the proposed resolution and ordinance.