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Press Release
March 12, 2009

Washington Environmental Community Says House Must Stop SB 5840

Bill would cut initiative’s renewable standard up to three-quarters or more in 2020

Olympia, WA — Businesses, consumers, community leaders and other renewable energy advocates have joined with Washington’s entire state environmental community in urging House members to reject a bill, passed by the Senate Tuesday night, that would cut the voter-endorsed renewables standard up to 75% or more in 2020.

 
By gutting the Clean Energy Act’s renewable energy standard, ESSB 5840 would discourage renewable-energy investments in this state. Those investments, spurred by voter passage of the Act – Initiative 937 – in 2006, are already providing much-needed jobs, farm income and local tax revenue throughout Washington, and the potential of millions of dollars more is crucial to our economic recovery.
 
“We’re in danger of making Washington the first state in the country to go backward on clean energy,” said Joan Crooks, executive director of Washington Environmental Council. “Our community is united in support of continued state leadership in building a clean-energy future. We cannot sit by as that future is eroded.”
 
I-937 requires the state’s largest electric utilities to gradually increase the amount of new renewable energy in their total supply to 15 percent by 2020. It also required those electric utilities to pursue all the energy conservation opportunities that would save money for their customers.
 
Many renewable energy companies have responded strongly to Washington’s renewables standard, developing several wind projects in previously distressed rural counties across the state. These projects are providing near- and long-term jobs, payments to landowners, and large contributions to local and state tax bases. But developers will make their investments in other states should Washington renege on its clean-energy commitments.
 
Meanwhile, many of the special interests that opposed the Clean Energy Act before and during the initiative campaign are trotting out the same old scare messages, such as claiming that renewable energy development will increase consumers’ costs.
 
“The truth,” said Sara Patton, executive director of the NW Energy Coalition, a clean-energy and consumer advocacy organization, “is that more renewable energy will not only reduce consumer costs but also bolster jobs and community investment. New renewable energy protects consumers – especially low-income families – from price spikes in fossil fuels and hydropower shortages.”
 
ESSB 5840 undermines I-937’s renewables standards in several ways:
 
  • ESSB 5840 allows utilities to reduce their annual new renewable-energy targets to their annual growth in their overall power needs. That change alone could cut 44% off I-937’s 2020 target, depriving the state of much-needed economic-development opportunities.
  • ESSB 5840 grandfathers in old existing resources (particularly small hydro and biomass), cutting more than one-eighth off I-937’s 2020 standard, and does nothing to create jobs and reduce climate emissions. Some of those resources have been operating since the 1800s.
  • By counting additional resources toward the target -- including black liquor, conservation beyond I-937’s separate energy efficiency targets, more hydropower — ESSB 5840 would displace nearly a fifth of the law’s eligible renewables in 2020. Failing to develop our non-hydro renewables will cost us dearly down the road.
 
Crooks stressed the crucial role House members must play in stopping this unwarranted rewrite of the Clean Energy Act. “Supporters of clean energy, the environment and good jobs must stand up now,” she said. “I’m confident that they will.”
 
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For more information contact:
Marc Krasnowsky
NW Energy Coalition
(206) 621-0094
 
John Audley
Renewable Northwest Project
(503) 223-4544
 
Becky Kelley
Washington Environmental Council
(206) 914-1712
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