Public Hearing on Energy Independence Act

<p>Richland Public Library</p>

Richland Public Library

State senators hold a public hearing in Richland to find out more about what Tri-Cities residents and businesses think about the Federal Energy Independence Act.

More than 100 people turned out to weigh-in on federal Initiative 937 at the Richland Library tonight.

The measure requires utilities with at least 25 thousand customers to buy 3% of their power until 2012 from renewable resources like wind and solar. That number goes up to 9% by 2016, and 15% by 2020. It also remains at the 15% mark for each year following.

Supporters say the measure is working and has increased energy sources and investments, such as wind farms.

But detractors, like Benton and Franklin PUD, and Columbia Basin College say area utilities have a surplus of hydro power for the next five years, which is wasteful and expensive.

CBC President Rich Cummins says buying renewable energy when customers don't need it just yet, makes utility bills that much higher for everyone.

"The reason there are so many people here tonight is that they would like to see the spirit of the I-937 law continue to move toward more energy efficiency, more renewables into the portfolio. But it also need to be done in a way that's more intelligent for Eastern Washington. And that means taking another look at this initiative to make sure it makes sense for everyone," said Cummings.

Meanwhile Governor Jay Inslee says I-937 has generated $7 billion in new investments statewide, and has no intention of rescinding the measure.

But GOP Senators Sharon Brown, and Doug Ericksen, who attended the public hearing tonight, say they intend to take this issue to the 2014 Legislative Session.