How Do I Make A Difference At The PSE Rate Case Hearing?

Testimony and Public Comment on Puget Sound Energy’s 2017 Rate Case
Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission Dockets UE-170033 & UG-170034

If you live in Tacoma and you run across the words “Puget Sound Energy” and “public hearing” in an event announcement there’s a pretty good chance that the next thing that comes to mind is liquefied natural gas, or LNG, or, as many environmental groups have taken to calling it, fracked gas.

The fact is that PSE has big plans for gas in our state. Tacoma LNG plays a part in that picture, but there’s a lot more to know, and it’s important for us all to weigh in on the PSE rate case hearing.

Find the Facebook event here.
Pre-hearing peace and prayer rally is here.

Can I comment on PSE’s Tacoma LNG project at the UTC hearing?

The short answer: Yes. But there’s more to it than that.

More on that below in the talking points section. Stay tuned!

Back to the Big Picture

So, I can include a statement about PSE’s Tacoma LNG project in my comments—what else is important?

First, it’s helpful to know why there’s a hearing before the Utilities and Transportation Commission in the first place. And that means learning a little bit more about the role PSE plays not just in our state, but in our region. While Tacoma’s electric utility is Tacoma Power, much of Western Washington gets its power from Puget Sound Energy. PSE’s electricity is generated almost equally by coal, hydroelectric, and fracked gas fired power plants.  Wind provides a mere 4%.

Now that you know how PSE’s electricity is generated, this statement makes more sense:

The main gist of this hearing is about one thing: coal.

Background

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) filed a request with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to increase its electric base rates approximately $149 million (7.6 percent) on an annual basis to cover expenses and past capital investments.[1] The UTC is now reviewing PSE’s request in a process known as a “rate case.” As part of its review, the UTC is holding two public hearings. The first was held in Bellevue on July 31, and the second is in Olympia on August 31. These two hearings are the public’s opportunity to tell the UTC what costs it should allow PSE to pass onto its customers.

Do you want your hard-earned dollars paying for PSE’s dirty Montana Colstrip coal plant—the third largest climate polluter in the United States in 2015?

We thought not! Attend the rate case hearing to tell PSE to get off coal by 2025.

Why are the hearings on PSE’s rate case significant?

The UTC can signal to PSE that it is unlikely to allow PSE to pass expenses associated with Colstrip onto customers past 2025. Utilities typically do not make investments unless they are confident that the UTC will approve them and allow them to pass those costs onto customers. Otherwise, shareholders are left footing the bill! For this reason, such a decision from the UTC would push PSE to get out of Colstrip. PSE is the single largest owner of the Colstrip coal plant. Without PSE’s support, the plant is not economically viable.

Talking Points for Our Public Comments

Incorporating PSE’s Tacoma LNG project

Tacoma LNG absolutely plays a part in the bigger picture when it comes to energy in Washington. Using a portion of your gone-in-a-blink two-minute speaking opportunity to share your comments about the project helps to do two things:

  1. It reminds the UTC commissioners of the context of PSE projects and the history of ratepayer funding. Ratepayers would fund a significant portion of the Tacoma LNG project, a project for which it will profit, and now PSE is asking for a rate increase.
  2. It tells the UTC commissioners not only that Tacomans are paying attention to what’s happening with their utilities, but that they want their utilities to focus on clean, safe, economical renewable energy, not building or extending dirty fossil fuel infrastructure.

You’ve got your Tacoma LNG section down now, right? Now to tackle coal.

The Broader Call to Action

PSE must get out of Colstrip no later than 2025.

Why is 2025 the correct time for PSE to get out of Colstrip?

  • The first round of compliance for the Paris Climate Agreement is 2025.
  • The owner of the Rosebud coal mine, the sole source of coal for the Colstrip coal plant, predicts that Rosebud will run out of coal in currently mined areas by the end of 2024. If Colstrip operates past 2025, it will likely require an expansion of the mine, which has already destroyed habitat and heavily polluted groundwater.
  • King County’s Strategic Climate Action Plan calls on the county to “phase out coal-fired electricity source by 2025.” The Council has formally adopted the plan, and 14 King County mayors have signed on. King County represents half of PSE’s service territory!
  • King County, city governments, and PSE’s major business customers—such as Microsoft, Starbucks, Target, and REI— are demanding clean, green energy from PSE. Many of these customers have secured additional wind power through PSE’s Green Direct program. These cities and businesses should be congratulated for their commitment to fighting climate change. However, renewable energy should be accessible and affordable for everyone, not just those with deep pockets. All of PSE’s customers deserve carbon-free energy, and that begins with PSE getting out of coal by 2025.
  • 100 percent clean energy – wind, solar and energy efficiency – is not only abundant and affordable; it is also the only long-term solution for fighting climate change.
  • This 2025 date reflects economic and climate reality. With this in mind, it is vital that PSE start planning NOW for getting out of Colstrip by 2025 to enable an orderly and just transition for the community of Colstrip.

Show the commissioners that it’s important to consider the bigger picture of fossil fuels in our state and in our region. As always, draw from your personal story.  Use your two minutes to show the UTC how their ruling impacts you, your family, and your life. It’s important to remember that the commissioners are in a position to hand down a ruling that helps, in its own way, to accelerate our shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. Calm, respectful, measured comments have the power to convey spirited passion.

How do you know how much you can say? In the two minutes available to you, you can say about 300 words. Practice with a friend on the drive to Olympia!

Make your case for retiring dirty fossil fuel infrastructure sooner rather than later and replacing it with clean, safe, economical renewable energy. We need your voice.

[1] After applying offsets, the net impact on PSE customers would be approximately a 4.1 percent increase in electric rates.

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