Clark Public Utilities: Carbon-fee initiative might raise rates

Memo to board outlines potential impact of I-1631

Clark Public Utilities’ costs and electricity rates would increase if Washington voters approve charging a direct fee on carbon pollution to fight climate change, utility officials say. …

[Initiative 1631’s fee] would cost Clark Public Utilities about $10 million the first year in added carbon costs, increasing annually to nearly $52 million through 2050, according to a memo produced for its board of directors. …

The carbon fee’s potential impact to the utility’s annual operating budget — which is now $378 million — would start at 3 percent in 2020, the first year collection would start, the memo says. …

“Whenever you ladle on another cost to the utility, that just increases the cost structure,” [Clark Public Utilities General Manager Wayne Nelson] said. “And that just goes into the rate discussion as to whether or not we have enough money to afford or be able to pay for all the costs we incur throughout the year to provide the services we do.” …

… [Nelson] said the initiative would create several boards that would consider proposals from Clark Public Utilities and others. He said there would be no assurance that the utility’s desired use of tax money for a conservation or renewables project would ultimately be approved in a competitive arena for project approvals. …

While Clark Public Utilities will not take a position, four other public utility commissions in the state have come out opposed to the initiative…

“People have to recognize the initiative will cause our rates to go up,” [Clark Public Utilities Commissioner Jim Malinowski] said in an interview. “If you think it’s important that we reduce the use of fossil fuels, and you’re willing to pay the price, then you should vote for it. If you think the rates aren’t justified, you should vote against it.”

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